Time for robotics in the food industry

Date published: 27 October 2017

Northern Ireland food and drinks companies are being encouraged to consider investing in robotics and automation, and to avail of the local help and assistance available to them.

Alan Reid (Northern Regional College) Mike Wilson (British Automation and Robotics Association) Michael Bell (NIFDA) Joy Alexander (CAFRE) David Holmes (Irwin’s Bakery) Colm Higgins (NITC, QUB).

This was the message relayed to all attending the recent ‘Robotics and Automation in Food Processing’ conference held at CAFRE, Loughry Campus.

Key note speaker Mike Wilson, Chairman of the British Automation and Robot Association, said: “With increasing uncertainty around future labour, increasing costs of production, robotics and automation offer a potential solutions for large and smaller food processing companies.”

The conference was run in partnership between the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC) Queens University Belfast, Northern Regional College (NRC) and CAFRE.

During the day delegates were inspired with a range of food specific case studies and had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the robots on display. In particular the presentation by David Holmes of Irwin’s Bakery highlighted the importance utilising innovative robotic automation to remain competitive in today’s challenging market place.

As Colm Higgins from NITC explained: “The world of technology is increasing at a great pace and we at NITC are available to help local companies understand the opportunities that robots offer. Today’s robots can carry out a number of functions in the food processing and our role is to design solutions for industry.”

Alan Reid (NRC) added: “Robotics and automation offer huge potential to the Northern Ireland food and drinks sector and today’s event allowed people to see for themselves the range of help and support available.”

CAFRE’s Joy Alexander said: “CAFRE is delighted to host this fascinating conference. Today has demonstrated to us that continued innovation within the robotics industry will have an ever growing role in shaping the future of our food industry.” 

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