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Rural Futures:Joint Teagasc-SRUC Conference, Edinburgh

Event Time 17.00 on the 12th and 08.15 on the 13th
Venue Norton House Hotel, Edinburgh
This conference will focus on exploring some of the key common challenges rural communities face in Ireland and Scotland and the respective approaches of Teagasc and SRUC to dealing with those challenges


The rate of change in rural communities is accelerating, bringing with it new multidisciplinary and multifaceted challenges.  Solutions to these cultural, economic, social and technological challenges must therefore also be multidisciplinary and multifaceted. Working together in a smart connected way is essential to address these “grand” challenges.

Addressing solutions should encompass many stakeholders, public, private; government, industry, academia, farmers and growers, advisers, processors, food companies, health professionals, nutritionists, economists and social scientists, considering both the supply side and demand-led sections of the economy (therefore also involving consumers) to set out a comprehensive agricultural, land-based and food strategy for the next 20 years.   Any new vision must be outward facing,  with the aim of producing a vibrant (i.e. viable and profitable) agricultural , land and food-based sector, that produces food of the highest quality and nutritive value, but within an environment that protects and nurtures natural ecosystems and helps meet environmental targets.  The vision for cultural change would fully embrace new technologies, consider and produce novel enabling policies, based on advice and guidance, not rules and regulation.  Filling knowledge gaps with research required to achieve such a vision would be based on collaboration and cohesion, with all relevant institutions working together synergistically and cohesively.  This may well mean developing close working relationships towards a common purpose with adoption of common working practices, efficient and lean management systems.

This conference will therefore focus on exploring some of the key common challenges rural communities face in Scotland and Ireland and our respective approaches to dealing with those challenges (learning also from other international perspectives, for example, New Zealand) can bring perspectives and insights to work together to bring about effective policy, economic and technological solutions that could lead to a vibrant and sustainable agricultural and rural sector in Scotland and Ireland for the coming decades.

Conference agenda

Monday, 12 March 2018, 17.00 – 19.30

Pre-conference Networking Reception

Teagasc/SRUC Poster Exhibit


Tuesday, 13 March 2018, 08.15 – 16.45


Registration and Coffee



Mr Sandy Cumming, CBE, Chairman, SRUC

Dr Noel Cawley, Chairman, Teagasc


Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speaker 1

Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)                       The key challenges for change in the rural sector.

Keynote Speaker 2:

Dr Liz Wedderburn, Assistant Research Director, AgResearch, New Zealand                                                                          The challenges of change and possible solutions:  the New Zealand experience

Chair:  Professor Wayne Powell, Principal and CEO, SRUC


Plenary Session  1

Adapting to Change : Policy, Agriculture and Rural Areas Post- Brexit


Dr Steven Thomson, Agricultural Economist, SRUC         Future agricultural policy options for Britain and Ireland.

Dr Kevin Hanrahan,  Head of Rural Economy & Development Programme, Teagasc                                                         Brexit: potential implications for Ireland’s rural economy.

Responders:                                                                            Mr Brendan Gleeson, Assistant Secretary General, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland

Mr Frank Strang,  Deputy Director, Food, Drink & Rural Communities, Scottish Government (followed by open discussion)

Chair:  Professor Gerry Boyle, Director, Teagasc


Plenary Session 2

Adapting to Change: Innovative Socio-Economic and Marketing Solutions

Dr Brendan Dunford, Burren Programme Manager, Ireland   The Burren Programme: sustainable farming in a high nature value area.

Prof Davy McCracken, Professor of Agricultural Ecology and Head of Hill & Mountain Research Centre Future Farming Systems                                                                                  Hill farming in Scotland: a fragile farming system?    

Catherine Keena, Countryside Management Specialist, Teagasc                                                                           Farming the uplands:  where to from here? 

Dr Jane Atterton, Rural Policy Centre Manager, SRUC                                  Towards more resilient rural communities: the human dimension. 

Chair: Professor Jamie Newbold, Academic Director, SRUC


Lunch, networking and posters


Plenary Session 3:

Adapting to Change: Innovative Technologies

Dr David Meredith, Senior Researcher, Teagasc               Boom, recession and recovery: impacts and implications for rural economic development. 

Professor Eileen Wall, Team Leader, Animal and Veterinary Sciences, SRUC                                                          Innovation: improving livestock productivity.

Dr Laurence Shaloo, Principal Researcher, Teagasc                  The role of data in the future of dairy farming.

Dr Dave Roberts, KE Director, SRUC                           Delivering behavioural change.

Chair: Professor Frank O’Mara, Director of Research, Teagasc




Plenary Session 4:

Towards Common Solutions

What can SRUC and Teagasc do together to deliver solutions?


Professor Wayne Powell, SRUC

Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc

Prof Ian Boyd, DEFRA

Dr Liz Wedderburn, AgResearch

Mr Brendan Gleeson, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland

Mr Frank Strang,  Food, Drink & Rural Communities, Scottish Government

Facilitator:  Dr Steven  Thomson, SRUC


Closing remarks

Professor Wayne Powell and Professor Gerry Boyle