South East Technological University win 8th Great Agri-food Debate

South East Technological University win 8th Great Agri-food Debate

South East Technological University (SETU) were declared the winners of the 8th Annual Great Agri-Food debate, organised by Dawn Meats and McDonald’s.

Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats, presents the winner’s trophy to South East Technological University (SETU).

SETU defeated University College Cork in the final having opposed the motion that: “The solution to negative consumer perceptions of red meat is more honest communication”.

Eight teams from across Ireland and the UK – seven third level institutions and one industry grouping – entered the competition this year including teams from Wales and Northern Ireland. The final was held in-person on Tuesday March 28th at Butchers’ Hall in London.

In defeating UCC in the final, SETU made it three wins a row following successes in 2021 and 2022. SETU was established in May of 2022, but it was formed through the amalgamation of IT Carlow and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). WIT were winners of the Great Agri-Food Debate in 2021 and 2022. They also won in 2019.

Aberystwyth University made a welcome return after their debut in 2021 as did last year’s newcomers the Munster Technological University (MTU) and PYF – a team of placement year students from McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmers programme.

These relative newcomers were joined by College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD) and last year’s winners Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) now known as South East Technological University (SETU) following their amalgamation with IT Carlow.

The preliminary round of debates took place virtually, as they did in 2022, with this enabling wider participation in what has become a calendar moment for students studying agriculture related subjects. This year is the first time the event involved a hybrid of both online and in-person debates with the final being held at the elegant Butchers’ Hall in London on Tuesday, March 28.

Best Speaker was awarded to Barry Stratford from UCC.

The final was judged by a range of representatives from the agrifood industry and beyond, including:

  • Harriet Wilson, agriculture and sustainable sourcing at McDonald’s UK and Ireland
  • Niall Browne, CEO of Dawn Meats and Dunbia
  • Junior Johnson, director of operations, Food Standards Agency
  • Siobhan Barnes, senior procurement manager agriculture and aquaculture, Whitbread
  • Nick Allen, CEO of British Meat Processors Association.

Commenting after the debate, Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats said: “Every year at this debate, there are new and complex motions that deserve the attention of our industry. We witnessed some well-accomplished debating from a strong cohort of students whose insights, intelligence and enthusiasm make me really positive about the future of Irish and British agriculture. Hearty congratulations to the winning team, and my thanks to our partners McDonald’s and all the participants and judges and for making this event such a success.”

Harriet Wilson, agriculture and sustainable sourcing manager for McDonald’s UK and Ireland said: “The Great Agri Food Debate always sparks thoughtful discussions, and this year was no different. We know that in order to futureproof the agriculture industry, we must engage the next generation, so it’s been really inspiring to hear the views from our Progressive Young Farmers and all students involved, on these important topics. I’d also like to congratulate Southeast Technological University on a fantastic final debate.”

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