The College of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Loughry Campus has lead responsibility for people development and knowledge and technology transfer programmes in the food processing and supply industry.
Loughry Campus supports small and medium-sized businesses innovate through the Invest NI Innovation Voucher programme.
Through a partnership approach, companies access support, specialist knowledge and practical skills required to help promote innovation, develop new products and systems to assist their business to grow.
Innovation Vouchers are not exclusive to food businesses, with the funding stream being active across CAFRE’s portfolio of agriculture, horticulture and equine projects.
The college has a fantastic range of equipment and facilities to advance innovation projects to help businesses compete more efficiently.
With the support of an Invest NI Innovation Voucher 2020 proved to be a great year for Shay O’Neill and Susan Chestnutt from Causeway Artisan Foods when they opened their food production business in February 2020.
Both Shay and Susan grew up on a farm and reared their own animals and accordingly appreciated that transparency should be a key element of their food production business.
Through research, they identified an opportunity in the market for the direct sale of slow reared pork from heritage breeds to consumers and chefs.
Causeway Artisan Foods predominantly use Berkshire pigs owing to their hardiness.
The pigs produce meat with intense marbling which generates tenderness and succulence in the final product.
Mangalitsa pigs, a Hungarian breed, are reared and have an incredibly slow growth rate which in itself leads to a high quality end product.
This breed has a thick coat of hair and offers the uniqueness of a much darker colour of pork meat.
Both breeds of pigs are hardy and are content to live outside throughout the year, lending themselves to the natural rearing systems that are implemented at Causeway Artisan Foods.
Shay and Susan are excited about how their produce, with novelty factors, can be set apart from products regularly found on the supermarket shelves.
Work is currently on-going at the pilot facilities available to the industry at CAFRE, Loughry Campus, Cookstown.
Ideas have been generated and screened, and the product concepts of flavoured sausages have been developed.
“With the help of the Innovation Voucher Scheme available from Invest NI, we have been able to further explore our ideas with CAFRE with the support of Food Technologist Ruth Hyndman,” says Susan.
“Through the Innovation Voucher we have been able to source flavours, ingredients and equipment required without having to fully invest in extra resources at this early stage of our business.”
Shay and Susan’s dream is for these concepts to fledge into fully developed and commercialised products and to be available throughout the UK via their own routes to market.
n If you would like to know more about how the college can help bring your ideas in fruition, please contact the Meat Technology Team based at Loughry Campus by emailing Rosemary Brennan at: Rosemary.Brennan@daera-ni.gov.uk or telephone: 028 8676 8265.
If you are interested in Invest NI’s Innovation Voucher programme, applications are welcome until Friday, February 5.
n Further information and access to the online application form is available at www.investni.com/innovation.
n Alternatively, if you would like to discuss a potential project, commercially in confidence, or have any queries relating to CAFRE’s role with the Innovation Voucher applications and project delivery, please do not hesitate to contact Victoria.Shiels@daera-ni.gov.uk.
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