2016 Annual ASA Banquet and Conference
The 2016 ASA Conference and Banquet took place on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th September in the Lyrath Hotel, Kilkenny. As is tradition, the conference started on the Thursday evening with the President’s Banquet which was attended by more than 600 industry professionals. The event is now considered to be the largest and most important networking opportunity of the year for those working in sectors allied to agricultural science.
The conference, which took place on Friday was attended by more than 400 people and explored the ways in which People, Science and Markets need to adapt and change to meet the challenges faced by the Irish agrifood industry.The keynote address was delivered by food analyst Jack Bobo, a former senior adviser in the US Department of Agriculture and currently Chief Communications Officer with biotechnology company Intrexon. Mr. Bobo spoke about the fact that the next 35 years is the most important there will ever be in the history of agriculture but that farmers, scientists and policy makers need to become better communicators in order to gain the trust of consumers in making the scientific and technological advances necessary.
The second session debated the ways in which smart agriculture is changing the Irish agricultural landscape. Dr. Frank O’Mara, Director of Research Teagasc briefed attendees about the Teagasc Foresight 2035 report which focuses on the identification of key technologies that will drive the competitiveness of the agrifood sector. A panel discussion chaired by Prof Willie Donnelly, President WIT and Chair of the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) followed with contributions from Prof Mark Keane, Chair of Computer Science (data analytics), UCD, Mr Kevin Nolan, Nolan Farming and Mr Timo Joosten, Senior Product Manager, Milking and Cooling, Lely International.
Dr. Robert Johannson, Chief Economist, US Department of Agriculture shared his projections on the future for global commodity markets, with a particular emphasis on the US agriculrural industry. Delegates heard how the average dairy herd in the US now averages 900 cows as expansion in the sector continues.
Aidan Connolly, Chief Innovation Officer, Alltech introduced the concept of the “Prosumer”, or the “proactive consumer” and the impact they are likely to have on the future direction of the agrifood industry. The session was chaired by Broadcaster, Keelin Shanley who hosted a discussion with Helen King, Director of Insights, Bord Bia and food policy analyst, Jack Bobo who discussed the influence changing consumer priorities are having on the food sector.
Ms Nicola McCracken, Head of Human Resources, DCC plc. discussed the crucial role talent management can play in the future of the food industry. A panel discussion, chaired by Mr Mike Brady, Brady Group heard inputs from Mr Bryan Doocey, AIB and Mr Rhys Williams, a Welsh Dairy Farmer who recently expanded his herd from 500 to almost 2000 cows requiring him to employ significant manpower.
Mr Chris Horseman, Editorial Director, Agra Europe updated delegates on the current status of Brexit and the likely implications for the Irish, UK and European food industry. A panel discussion, chaired by Mr Matt O’Keeffe, Editor, Irish Farmers Monthly followed with contributions from Mr. Joe Healy, President, IFA, Mr Colm McCarthy, Economist, UCD and Mr. Phelim O’Neill, Markets Specialist, Irish Farmers Journal.
The AGM of the ASA took place following the conference and Mary Delaney was elected as President of the association, taking over from Neil Keane. Delaney is currently Head of Equine in Glanbia Agribusiness, a Nuffield Scholar, lives on a dairy farm and has been an active member of the ASA for 16 years. The ASA will mark its 75th year in 2017 and previous female presidents include Elaine Farrell in 2008 and Dr. Karina Pierce in 2012.