The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) is a Division within the Food and Farming Group and part of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
CAFRE’s programmes are delivered against the key DAERA policy objectives and contribute to the achievement of the DAERA Vision of “Sustainability at the heart of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone” by improving the competitiveness of the local Agri-food industry.
CAFRE will contribute to this vision by establishing strong links to new Policy areas, for example, Green Growth and the new Future Agricultural Policy. The Estate will provide strong sources of evidence to support Policy and Scheme development, while also delivering a key role with the demonstration of desired Policy outcomes to farmers, stakeholders and the wider industry.
CAFRE’s overarching aim is:
“To be a knowledge centric organisation delivering high quality education, knowledge and technology transfer programmes to those entering and those working in the Northern Ireland Agri-food industry, to support its sustainable growth”.
A key outcome in achieving CAFRE’s aim is the development of highly competent, qualified, confident and responsible graduates who are ready to commence rewarding careers in the Agri-food industry.
Through CAFRE’s education provision, learners are exposed to cutting edge innovation, which is also demonstrated to the industry through the Knowledge Advisory Service.
Fundamental to the achievement of the CAFRE aim is the CAFRE Estate as a learning platform, which serves to demonstrate the implementation of Government Policy to the Agri-food industry. This is achieved through the demonstration of productivity, sustainability, environmental stewardship and resilience to all learners.
The CAFRE farms are LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) approved. A key requirement of maintaining this important accreditation is continually implementing sustainability projects across the farms, including increasing biodiversity, improving water quality, using integrated pest management to control pests and diseases in crops and investing in innovations which reduce the environmental footprint of the farms.
A College Estate Strategy has been developed and was launched by the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in October 2022. The Strategy places sustainability at the centre of CAFRE business plans and connects operations across the CAFRE Farmed and Non-Farmed Estate. For example, the Strategy seeks to provide direction, whether it be a move away from plastic teaspoons in CAFRE canteens to cutting carbon emissions from our peatlands at the Hill Farm Centre.
The Strategy includes five overarching objectives which are:
- We will demonstrate highest quality environmental practices in all our activities across the CAFRE Estate;
- We will demonstrate best practice in resilient, productive agricultural, horticultural and equine systems;
- We will demonstrate industry leading plant health and animal health and welfare standards in our production systems;
- We will produce high quality, market-focused agricultural, horticultural and equine outputs; and
- We will develop a sustainability ethos in our staff and customers and we will collaborate with others to improve human health outcomes.
Eight high level targets were also agreed and are:
- CAFRE to be 50% Carbon Neutral by 2030;
- Reduce anti-microbial usage by 95% by 2030;
- Eliminate the use of peat in horticulture by 2025;
- CAFRE air quality to not impact on local habitats and health by 2030;
- CAFRE water to be of “Good” quality status by 2030;
- CAFRE habitats to be in favourable condition by 2030;
- Eliminate CAFRE land fill waste by 2025; and
- CAFRE productive land to be in “Good” soil health status by 2030.
The targets are stretching and the achievement of many of them will present significant technical, reputational and resource challenges to CAFRE
Implementation Teams have been established to develop plans to identify the actions needed to provide the foundation for the successful achievement of the targets. These plans include actions to be taken across all high level targets.
Detailed action plans are now in place and Implementation Teams will commence an important consultation exercise with industry stakeholders. This part of the implementation process is very important and while demonstrating the direction of travel for the CAFRE Enterprises, it will also encourage the industry to challenge the proposals and ultimately achieve buy-in.
Progress towards the achievement of the targets will be reported annually.
The Strategy document can be viewed below: