In August 2020 NIFDA commissioned the Advanced Food Manufacturing network, with a focus on the potential of digital technologies to tackle recruitment shortfalls, improve health and safety standards and enhance overall productivity.  Supported by Invest Northern Ireland through its Collaborative Growth Programme, the Automated Food Manufacture network is exploring how digital technologies can be integrated into production processes to boost growth for the industry in Northern Ireland.

Conducted by agri-food specialists Birnie Consultancy, the goal of the network is to establish the current situation in terms of automation and use of data from a range of NI food companies as well as identifying support and gaps. To this end, Birnie consulted with 10 Northern Ireland food companies to deliver this report, which outlines five specific areas of need: the use of data for management; the key importance of automation to productivity and profitability gains; the availability of training and skills development; the importance of making connections to raise awareness of solutions that can maximise the productivity of food production; and the need for an Advanced Food Manufacturing Network to help to move the sector forwards.

The analysis and outcomes of this report are given after a careful study of Food Manufacturing in Northern Ireland and input from each company in the form of a comprehensive 4 Manufacturing survey and continual engagement with both the Consultants and other businesses in the form of an Advanced Food Manufacturing Network.