Understanding the supply chain is fundamental to agricultural production and innovation. Second year students on the BSc (Hons) Degree in Agricultural Technology, delivered in partnership between Queens University Belfast and CAFRE, participate in an innovative supply chain programme with beef and lamb processor Linden Foods and food retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S). As part of this programme, the students visit both Linden Foods in Dungannon and the Food Hall of the Marks & Spencer store in Sprucefield to explore the diverse and exciting range of food products available in the twenty-first century food marketplace.
Following these visits the students, in teams, are challenged to develop a supply chain for a new cutting edge food product designed to end up in the shopping basket of an M&S customer. After the teams go through the demanding product and packaging design processes and tease out supply chain logistics they then have to prepare and pitch their product to a judging panel comprising staff from Marks and Spencer, Linden Foods, and CAFRE.
Marks & Spencer and Linden Foods staff with members of the winning team. From left: Keith Williamson (Linden Foods), Stephen McConnell (Larne), Kerry Little (Tandragee), Melanie McAuley (Ballyclare), Cormac Mallon (Dungannon) and Conor McLoughlin (M&S Sprucefield)
The judging panel had their work cut out assessing teams with products ranging from local luxury ice-cream to no-pasta lasagne and billy goat burgers. After tasting the products, examining the packaging, listening to the pitches and questioning teams on both feasibility and profitability, the panel made their decisions.
The winning team comprised Stephen McConnell (Larne), Kerry Little (Tandragee), Melanie McAuley (Ballyclare) and Cormac Mallon (Dungannon). Their product was beef olives created using local silverside and a delicious stuffing to provide a generous and tasty value for money meal.
The runner up team. James Toner (Collone, Co Armagh), Hannah Vance (Kesh Co Fermanagh) and Anna Millar (Lisburn, Co Antrim). Absent from the photograph is Matthew Murnion (Hilltown, Co Down)
The Supply Chain programme is sponsored by Linden Foods and Marks & Spencer as part of its Farming for the Future education programme. The winning team are rewarded with a visit to M&S London headquarters where the students meet a range of M&S staff involved in food purchasing and new product development. The top three student teams will also receive awards at Balmoral Show.
Marks & Spencer and Linden Foods staff with members of the 3rd placed team. From left: Keith Williamson (Linden Foods), Jack Wilson (Fivemiletown Co Tyrone, Aaron Weir (Lack), Joanne Woods (Lack), Blazka Subic (Slovenian exchange student) and Conor McLoughlin (M&S Sprucefield)