DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced plans for a phased return of face-to-face delivery of Knowledge and Technology programmes by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry.
To ensure the safety of College staff, students, agri-food industry employees and everyone in the community, face-to-face delivery of the programmes ceased in March as the Coronavirus pandemic took its grip.
Minister Poots said: “Since lockdown began CAFRE has continued to provide its services through a variety of remote channels. These have included telephone advice, technical films on YouTube, technical articles online and in the agri-press, continual updates on the College website and social media channels, through video-conferencing and via webinars.
“However, it is very widely recognised that on-site practical learning and industry engagement both on farms and CAFRE’s three campuses is a great enhancement to the quality of the knowledge transfer experience.
“For that reason I am happy to provide an update on the plans for a phased return to face-to-face delivery for CAFRE’s industry programmes. This will include Business Development Groups (BDGs), Farm Family Key Skills, Technology Demonstration Farms, Equine Industry Training, Food Industry Training and Technology Transfer programmes.
“From August 3, CAFRE will be able to offer one-to-one support on farms, food processing businesses, horticulture businesses or on campus. This will include benchmarking data for BDG scheme members, farm and horticulture business advice and food industry development programmes, both on and off campus.
“As of August 17, on-farm and off-farm BDGs scheme training events will also begin again with on-farm Technology Demonstration Farm knowledge transfer events following in early September.
“In September and October, the training and technology transfer events, including the Farm Family Key Skills Scheme, will continue as planned at venues which can accommodate groups with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
“Unfortunately the Farm Innovation Visits scheme will remain on hold until there is more information on the easing of travel restrictions to other countries. However, dissemination of the learning and technologies arising from visits that took place prior to March 2020 will go ahead.
“I welcome CAFRE’s return to face-to-face delivery and I am completely confident that all programmes will be delivered within government guidelines and with measures in place to ensure the health and safety of staff, participants and the local community as a priority.”
The Business Development Groups, Farm Family Key Skills, Technology Demonstration Farms and Farm Innovation Visits Schemes are delivered by CAFRE and part funded by the EU.