Mid and East Antrim Food and Drink Network

Agri-food Study and Action Plan

Barley growing in a field

Agri-food was identified as a key priority strategy within the Amplify Integrated Economic Development Strategy for the Mid and East Antrim area given the area’s thriving agri-food sector. 

In June 2019, an Agri-food Study and Action Plan for the Mid and East Antrim area was commissioned.

An extensive desktop research exercise and a range of consultations with private and public stakeholders in the agri-food sector were completed.

This process included primary and secondary research, an online assessment tool to allow direct input and feedback for companies, and a number of targeted workshops to discuss the trends and opportunities within the sector.

Subsequently, the agri-food study and action plan was produced for the Mid and East Antrim area. 

Key findings from the study and proposed actions are presented below and in the attached eBrochure

You can express interest in the agri-food action plan projects or make comment on the action plan by emailing invest@midandeastantrim.gov.uk.

Agri-Demonstrator Grant 

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council delivered the Agri-food Demonstrator Pilot Grant scheme between April 2021 and March 2022.  

The scheme enabled eligible businesses in the agri-food sector within Mid and East Antrim, to access support for small scale demonstrator projects. 

Eligible projects included those which allowed applicants to scope out, develop, test or demonstrate new products, services and techniques.  

Companies with an idea for an agri-food project were able to secure funding of up to 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of £1,500.

Successful projects included micro-businesses investing in small pieces of capital equipment to support the development of new products, services and techniques.

The scheme is currently closed for applications.


Agri-food Study Findings

A recent Agri-food study commissioned by Council identified the following:

187 registered food and drink
producers in the Borough
employing 2,383 staff and
contributing £449m in sales to the
local economy.
Of the 187 registered food and
drink production companies,
28% are baked goods, 19% are
retail meats and 12% are meat
1,797 farms registered in Mid and
East Antrim employing 3,619
people and generating £26m in
sales for the area.
Strong base of food production and
processing companies, including
expertise in poultry, meat, eggs and
Excellent farming and primary food
production heritage across the
Borough with 84% of farms in the
Borough involved in the raising of
animals for food production.
Self-assessment by consultees
highlighted that businesses in the
Borough were generally proficient in:
• Business Administration
• Sales Growth
• Reducing Waste
Respondents also noted that they had
limited capability in:
• Automation
• Data Capture & Analysis
• Understanding New Product Demand

Identified Opportunities

Following analysis of consultee responses and key stakeholder engagement, the following development opportunities emerged to support the agri-food sector:

changing market
demands for
higher profit
to address
productivity and
Develop skilled
resources which
are constraining
Invest in
lower carbon
Connect key

Key themes

Challenges exist in getting the right
resources and skills to support
agri-business growth plans.
Knowledge Gaps:
Particularly around agri-technology
and what potential impact it
could have across the sector on
productivity and in developing new
commercial offerings.
Planning for Uncertainty
and Brexit:

Businesses continue to seek clarity
on regulatory matters and feedback
reflected this as a key priority.
New agri-technology

Market Demands: Market awareness
and understanding market demands
identified as key themes throughout.

The Action Plan

It was recommended that four key areas be supported going forward:

Agri-food Skill Development:

Identification and development of agri-food specific skills for understanding market demand and utilising agri-technology.

Agri-food Network:

Building on the MEA Food and Drink Network, re-establishment of an agri-food sector network to provide opportunities for businesses to capture challenges and issues or identify collaborative opportunities.

Agri-food Entrepreneur Development:

A targeted agri-food start-up programme to provide support for innovative business ideas. Offering workshops, networking, mentoring and financial incentive to accelerate the development of an agri-business idea.


We are not accepting applications at this time – we expect to run a similar programme next year!

If you are interested in finding out more please contact amplify@midandeastantrim.gov.uk.

SPROUT is a unique opportunity to become a game-changer in the agri-food sector.

SPROUT will give you a team of people to help you find, refine and launch a brilliant business idea.

Each team will be chosen to suit the business - the help provided could be creative, technical, design, legal, financial - whatever you need to make it happen.

1. Eligibility - you must be aged over 18 and resident in the Mid and East Antrim Borough

2. Knowledge of the sector - understanding of the challenges facing the agri-food sector especially sustainability

3. Desire to innovate - a demonstrated ability to see, explore and evaluate opportunities

4. Need to innovate - rationale for wanting to be involved


Agri-food Demonstrator Programme:

Provide financial support for deployment of a process, technology or scientific approach to demonstrate something of value to potential customers. 

Digital Assistance Scheme

Defra is introducing an Application Programme Interface (API) Forum that will be the development community for the work on API-based tools to support movements of agri-food goods from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI) and are keen for traders, technology providers and systems integration providers to be a part of this invitation to attend an API Forum Event to help further develop the Digital Assistance Scheme.

Defra will be running two online API Forum events via zoom. The 60-minute events are open to any trader, technology provider or systems integration provider, and places will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. You can sign up for an API Forum event by clicking on one of the links below:

API Forum 1: Wednesday, 21 April – 2-3pm, click here to register
API Forum 2: Wednesday, 28 April – 2-3pm, click here to register