Agriculture students at six third-level colleges across the island of Ireland will gather in Queen’s University Belfast for the fifth annual Great Agri-food Debate on Thursday 27 February 2020.

The competition is a joint initiative between Dawn Meats and McDonald’s. It will be held in Northern Ireland for the first time this year to reflect the importance of an all-island dialogue to address the biggest issues facing farming today.

Alongside Queen’s, University of Limerick, University College Dublin, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Dundalk Institute of Technology and last year’s winners Waterford Institute of Technology will also take part.


The debate motions include:

  • Precision agriculture is the only viable future to feed 10bn people.
  • The gender inequality issue in the agri-food industry has been solved.
  • Today’s vegan climate solutions will be the deserts of tomorrow.
  • Zero waste to landfill is no big deal - waste prevention is the only conversation we should be having.
  • The impact of African Swine Fever is a wakeup call for everybody on the risks associated with intensive production of protein and a further reason to encourage sustainable grass-based production system.
  • ‘Global free trade, not subsidies, will deliver a sustainable future for European agriculture’ will be the motion for the final.


    The judging panel will consist of Nina Prichard from McDonald’s; German Ambassador to Ireland HE Mrs Deike Potzel; Food Safety Authority of Ireland CEO Pamela Byrne; Dawn Meats and Dunbia CEO Niall Browne; and Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy.

    Niall Browne said: “This is the fifth year of the Great Agri-food Debate and we’re delighted to host proceedings this time in Belfast.

    “Queen’s University’s Institute for Global Food Security is world renowned and provides the perfect backdrop for some of the brightest young minds to debate issues of central importance to our industry north and south.”

    Farm Forward programme

    Head of sustainable and ethical sourcing at McDonald’s UK & Ireland Nina Prichard said: “It’s wonderful to help deliver such a high standard of informed and impassioned debate, with students from colleges across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland participating.

    “McDonald’s Farm Forward programme aims to shape a positive future for the agri-food sector across Ireland and the UK. We believe young people are vital to this conversation, which is why it will be so encouraging to see students debating the issues of the day and coming up with innovative solutions to some of the challenges faced.”

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