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CAFRE

CAFRE College Advisory Group (CAG)

The College Advisory Group (CAG) is an Expert Committee responsible for providing advice at a strategic and operational level to the management team of College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) on the delivery of CAFRE programmes for the Northern Ireland Agri-food industry.

The group was established in January 2007 and reports to the College Director, Martin McKendry. 

The Group comprises a Chair, and 12 members.  Each member has been appointed to represent various sectors relevant to the role and work of CAFRE. The appointment information can be found here.

The Chair of the Group is Maynard Mawhinney.

CAFRE College Advisory Group (CAG)
College Advisory Group
L-R: Martin McKendry (CAFRE Director), Maynard Mawhinney (CAG Chairperson), Diane Ruddock (Environment), Roy Lyttle (Production Horticulture), James O’Boyle (CAFRE), Allan Chambers (Arable Crops), David McDowell (Education), Mike Johnston (Previous CAG Chairperson), Nicholas Cowan (Environment in the Supply Chain), Malcolm Emery (International Relations), Esther Skelly-Smith (Equine), and Eric Long (CAFRE).
Not pictured: David Brown (Extensive Livestock – Red Meat), Ivor Ferguson (Intensive Livestock – Pigs), Mark Gowdy (Agri-Food Business Development), Harold Johnston (Intensive Livestock – Dairy).
College Advisory Group Members
CHAIRPERSON

Maynard Mawhinney was appointed Chair of the Group in 2021 and is an experienced Board Member with a demonstrated history of working in the Agri-Food industry.  Maynard is agri-food advisor to BDO and an independent food consultant as well as the current Chair of the Finance and Performance Committee of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust. He was Director of Food, Drink and Commercial Tourism at InvestNI from 2003 – 2013, working with strategic partners to develop Agri-Food strategies.  Maynard has also served as a Board Member to the Health & Safety Executive (NI), an Independent Interview Board Assessor for the Commissioner for Public Appointments NI, a Business Coach through Mentoring Concave and a member of the CAFRE College Advisory Group representing the Food Processing sector.

AGRI-FOOD BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Mark Gowdy has over 30 years’ experience within the Food Industry and is currently the Sales and Marketing Manager at White’s Speedicook Ltd. (Fane Valley Group).  Prior to joining White’s he held a number of positions within the bakery sector including Sales Director for Jacob’s Biscuits (Groupe Danone: Ireland).  He has previously served as a board member for the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland and is the current treasurer of the Northern Ireland fund raising committee for the UK charity, GroceryAid. 

ARABLE CROPS/COMMERCIAL HORTICULTURE

Allan Chambers farms 320 acres at Seaforde Co Down in a share farming arrangement with nephew Neill Patterson .290 acres is in a three year arable rotation with native woodland established on the rest. Allan is a former member of the DARD Vision Group, former UFU board member and founder member of Seaforde Growers Ltd.

EDUCATION

David McDowell PhD, FSB, C. Biol., M. I. Biol. is Emeritus Professor of Food Studies at University of Ulster, focussing on food microbiology research, technology transfer and related teaching. He is currently Deputy Chair of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, and past Deputy Chair of the Agrifood and Biosciences Research Institute (NI).

ENVIRONMENT

Diane Ruddock is the External Affairs Manager for the National Trust in Northern Ireland and has been an employee of the conservation charity since 1986.  She currently represents the Trust on a number of bodies including the DAERA Rural Development Programme Monitoring Committee and the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership Advisory Committee.  She is also a Board member of Northern Ireland Environmental Link.  

ENVIRNOMENT IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Nicholas Cowan is an experienced operations manager working within the land based and agri-food industries in both the private and public sectors, throughout the UK.  Nicholas is currently the Group Environmental Manager for Tayto Group Ltd and has previously held positions in Northern Ireland Water and the Monymusk Land Company Ltd, Aberdeen.  He holds a degree in Rural Business Management from the University of Aberdeen/Scottish Agricultural College. 

EQUINE

Dr Esther Skelly-Smith is a practicing Equine Veterinary Surgeon and is the practice principal of Shanaghan Veterinary Services.  Previously she worked within the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, the Gleno Veterinary Centre and the Equine Dental Clinic in Hillsborough.  Esther is a partner in her family farm and has successfully led the diversification of the farm into sport horse breeding.  She has competed at national level in a range of equine disciplines including dressage and side saddle.  She is also the Honorary Secretary and equine advisor to the North of Ireland Veterinary Association and the Association of Veterinary Surgeons practicing in Northern Ireland.  

EXTENSIVE LIVESTOCK – RED MEAT

David Brown is a beef and sheep farmer from Florencecourt, County Fermanagh. David is a Trustee of the Vaughan Trust supporting agricultural and educational projects in Fermanagh and a Committee Member of the Fermanagh Grassland Club and has served as chairman. David has represented the South West group on the Ulster Framer’s Union beef and lamb committee and he was elected as deputy president of the Ulster Framer’s Union in 2018.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Malcolm Emery has 25 years’ experience in business both as an owner and as a manager and has extensive experience at a senior level in the retail and commercial sectors.  He previously held positions of CEO of NI Seafood and Rural Support, Development Director of Utility wise and Business Development Director of Carillion Energy Services.  Malcolm graduated from Greenmount College in 1984 and holds an MSc in Agri-food Business Development from the Ulster University.  Throughout his career he has developed a range of industry contacts across the world including Australia, Hong Kong, India and France. 

INTENSIVE LIVESTOCK – DAIRY

Harold Johnston has over 35 years’ experience of the Dairy farming sector and has had success in several competitions, most notably First place in the 2020 Ulster Grassland Society “Grassland Farmer of the year” competition. Harold has a long career of service to the farming community, having been a Board member of Dale Farm Co-Op since 2011, a position which has given him insight into the processor side of the industry.  He is also currently President-Elect of the Ulster Grassland Society, a member of South Antrim Dairy Group and was County Antrim chairman of the Ulster Farmers Union in 2005.

INTENSIVE LIVESTOCK – PIGS

Ivor Ferguson graduated from Harper Adams Agricultural College and farms at Markethill where he manages a 300 sow birth to bacon pig unit and also sheep and arable enterprises.  In 2018 Ivor was elected as the President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union. He was Chair of the UFU Pork and Bacon policy committee and represented the Union at the Pork and Bacon Forum. He is a Past-President of Armagh Lions Club and is actively involved in motorsport as a Rally Co-Driver.

PRODUCTION HORTICULTURE

Roy Lyttle owns and manages his farm near Newtownards where he grows, processes and packs a range of vegetables crops for supply to the retail multiples and also to local independents.  Roy is a member of the Agricultural Wages Board, has been a past chair of the UFU Vegetable Committee and is a member of the Northern Ireland Horticulture Forum.  He is also the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors for Regent House Grammar School and Chairman of Loughries Integrated Primary School Board of Governors.  In 2016 he won the Wildlife Friendly Farmer of the year award at the prestigious Farming Life/Danske Bank awards. 

FOOD PROCESSING (Vacant)