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Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots has viewed plans for a £43million investment in the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to create a “food hub” at its Loughry campus.

Work is due to begin on the capital project in 2023 and will include a new Science Centre which will be shared with the Food Research Branch (FRB) of the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

This major project, which is part of a wider £75million capital investment programme for the CAFRE estate, is the single biggest investment ever at the Cookstown site.

Minister Poots said: “I am excited to see and hear about the plans for this £43million investment at CAFRE - our world-renowned agri-food college.

“This is a very exciting chapter in the 113 year history of the Loughry campus and will deliver state-of-the-art, modern facilities, creating an innovative food hub which will enhance collaboration between education, research, technology and the food industry.

“With a new Science Centre, conference facilities and student accommodation this investment will meet the current and future needs of the students and the wider agri-food industry which remains one of our most resilient sectors, generating £5billion per year for the local economy and employing almost 5% of the Northern Ireland workforce,” the Minister added.

The Cookstown campus is also home to the Food Innovation Centre which helps business develop new food products and offers a wide range of full and part-time courses including food technology, health and food nutrition, food innovation and food business management.

“CAFRE is renowned throughout the agri-food industry for turning out highly-skilled graduates and delivering training programmes to around 10,000 people per year. These new facilities will make a significant difference to students, teaching staff and the wider agri-food sector,” he added.