The Great Agri-Food Debate is back with a bang for 2021 but in a different format to previous years – undergoing the virtual treatment to ensure compliance with current Covid-19 restrictions.

Students of food and agriculture at six third-level colleges from across Ireland and the UK will gather virtually for the 6th Annual Great Agri-Food Debate across three days in March and April.

A joint initiative between Dawn Meats and McDonald’s.

This year’s debate also brings another new dimension to proceedings with the involvement of the University of Aberystwyth, marking the first time a college from outside the island of Ireland has been involved.

This, organisers say, “emphasizes the shared need for continued dialogue on issues of common interest in the UK and Irish agri-food sector”.

Students from the University of Aberystwyth will be joined by five other third level colleges in a competitive program of debate across March 30, 31, and April 1.

These include: University of Limerick; last year’s winners University College Dublin; Northern Ireland’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE); Dundalk Institute of Technology; and 2019 winners Waterford Institute of Technology. The colleges will compete across the three days.

Sustainability and its role in the future of the agri-food industry will be central to the discussions, with students debating the following motions:
  • Plastic is not the enemy of our blue planet;
  • Lab grown meats will not replace traditional livestock farming systems;
  • The livestock sector can meet the requirements for net zero.

Commenting, Niall Browne, CEO of Dawn Meats, said:

“Despite the challenges faced by both the food industry and the education sector, we are delighted that the Great Agri-food Debate can continue in its sixth year, albeit with a slightly different format to previous years.

“The participation of the University of Aberystwyth in Wales is timely, and I look forward to the different perspectives they will bring.”

Beth Hart, McDonald’s UK and Ireland vice president for Supply Chain and Brand Trust, also commented, adding:

During these challenging times, it is more vital than ever that young people are encouraged to engage with the big issues of our times – whether that’s climate change or debating what a post-Covid world could look like.

“At McDonald’s we work with many of the UK and Ireland’s best farm producers, so it’s no surprise that we attach huge importance to engaging with and understanding the ideas and viewpoints of the next generation coming through Irish and UK colleges and universities.”