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News > Master’s students enjoy a study tour of agri-food businesses


Master’s students enjoy a study tour of agri-food businesses

May 31, 2022

On a study tour to businesses in the Boyne Valley, Masters’ students turned apprentices to learn from the real masters; those leading successful farm and food businesses. The Master’s Degree in Business for Agri-Food and Rural Enterprise at CAFRE- Loughry Campus aims to provide those entering, or working in, the industry, with the skills and competences to manage and lead effectively. Key themes of the programme are business communication, leadership and change management. The study tour aimed to provide students with real life examples of the leadership and change management skills demonstrated by businesses to ensure success in the agri-food sector.

John Kingham the farm manager at the Tateetra Suckler Beef Farm near Dundalk, showed the group their 500 cow suckler beef herd, one of the largest suckler herds in Ireland, and outlined his focus on grass fed prime quality beef. Discussion centred on how the company were focused on sustainable farming and innovation with the aim of balancing profit and the environment.  The students saw the importance of innovation and targeted marketing to the growth of the business through grassland management, measuring animal performance, a range of genetic improvement methods.

The visit to Meade Farms provided students with an example of how effective leadership and change management can grow a successful business. The Marketing Manager for Meade Farms, Jeni Meade, outlined how their fresh produce business (at Lobinstown, Co. Meath), had grown and developed in the challenging agri-food sector. It now employs 340 people from farm to fork – growing, adding value, packing, distributing and facilitating fresh produce.  The company specialises in growing potatoes, carrots and onions, but their modern packhouse has production lines to handle all types of fruit and vegetables for their customers. 

The students were interested to see that the company is committed to sustainability, another topic covered on the programme, as energy is generated from its wind turbine and solar panels. Cliona Costello, Meade Farms R&D Manager outlined the importance of innovation and explained that she had worked with Food Technologists from Loughry Campus to develop an innovative potato starch which is a gluten-free food ingredient for thickening soups and sauces.

The importance of innovation was also discussed with Michael Finnegan at his rural enterprise, Boyne Valley Farmhouse Cheese.  Michael milks 250 goats on his beef and tillage farm at Rathkenny, Co. Meath and has developed a number of award-winning goats’ cheeses. Michael told the group of his career path; he enjoyed studying agriculture at CAFRE Greenmount from 1996-99, after which he spent four years working on dairy farms in New Zealand. In this visit, the Master’s students saw the benefits of managing the existing beef and tillage farm whilst diversifying the business to manufacture innovative farmhouse cheeses which are in demand from both retailers and the foodservice sector. The students loved the taste of the Boyne goats’ cheeses including the first blue-veined goats’ cheese made in Ireland and a wonderful white cheese. 

Dairy Farmer, Martin Heaney, outlined his five years’ experience grazing multispecies pasture on part of his Merrywell Farm at Kilberry, Co. Meath. Multispecies swards are a mix of grass, legumes and herbs and Martin uses a seed mix including grass, legumes, and herbs. The benefit of this approach is that the sward requires much lower nitrogen input, as well as benefitting soil health and earthworm activity.  The MSc students were particularly interested in the links to their own Research Projects since several are investigating farmers’ attitudes and behaviour to improving farm sustainability. Martin discussed his methods for managing weeds and sward persistency in the multispecies mix.  

The study tour provided the Master’s students with many examples of leadership, business management, innovation, marketing, communication, teamwork and sustainability- all themes covered within the MSc Business for Agri-Food & Rural Enterprise programme at CAFRE.