Agri-food is worth £109 billion to the UK economy and accounts for 14% of national employment.
The core elements of this sub-sector are agriculture (or primary production) and the subsequent processing, wholesale and retail activities associated with the food and drink that is produced.
There are numerous different roles available, ranging from animal nutritionist to biochemical engineer, food quality control analyst or supply chain manager.
This is a rapidly changing industry, and exports in Northern Ireland, a key player in the agri-food sector, have chosen the following areas as important for the sector to focus on in the future.
- Innovative process and packaging
- Enhancing consumer knowledge
- Emphasis on organic produce
- Increasing populations
A recent report, Leading Food 4.0, publishing by the National Centre for Universities and Business, explains that in Food 4.0, "nine billion people around the world must be fed safely, sustainably, affordably and securely".
It anticipates that the "Food 4.0 revolution is likely to be knowledge-intensive, collaborative and integrative. It may be built on nanotechnologies, big data, genomics and communications technologies. Or, it may be the product of renewables, ecological policies, better consumer education and environmental literacy. In all likelihood, it will be birthed by all of these".
The good news is that all of this vital development will require scientists and researchers at every stage.