Food Incubators Transforming Regions Multiplier Event – Athlone, Ireland
Last week, food incubators from across Ireland gathered in Athlone Institute of Technology to focus on the immense potential of food incubators as drivers of local economies. Hosted by Roscommon LEADER Partnership and Momentum as part of the Erasmus + Food Incubators Transforming Regions project, over 100 delegates heard from game changing projects that are quite literally providing an economic lifeline in challenged areas. Currently, The Food Hub in Drumshanbo provides employment for 66 jobs across 8 companies, Newmarket Kitchen in Bray supports 23 food businesses with 54 employees and Ferbane Food Campus provides facilities for 6 emerging food businesses and as well as expanding by developing new incubator units. Cork County Council provide 17 food units acorss the county which have delivered 37 jobs while The School of Food in Kilkenny shared its emergence as a food incubator and hospitality training centre for aspiring and experienced professional chefs.
Addressing the event Denis Naughten TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Environment commended the initiative “to hear at first hand the impact that food incubators are having on a regional basis is so impressive. They provide the vital infrastructure and supports for food entrepreneurs and agri-diversification businesses to start and grow their food businesses.”
Minister Naughten launched one of the key outputs of the Erasmus + programme, The Essential Guide to Developing a Regional Food Incubator Partnership.
Mairead McGuinness, MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament and member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety took the opportunity to commend the EU funded project as a very tangible example of how the EU can make an impact on the ground. “The energy and potential of the food incubators is very impressive and by working to exchange innovation across Europe, the real potential can be exploited locally.”
Orla Casey, Momentum outlined how food incubators need to be taken seriously. “As part of our Action Plan development, we completed a mapping exercise to analyse the scope and reach of food incubators. It was very obvious that the west and north west region is very poorly served. With just 2 facilities (Drumshanbo and Magheroarty in the top end of Donegal) the region compares very poorly to Co. Cork with 17 food units developed by Cork County Council throughout the region. These are job creators and need dedicated funding support but at the moment funding sources are scarce or non-existent”.
New food incubator announced for Castlerea
The conference also saw the formal launch of An Chistin, a new food incubator under development at The Hub, Castlerea. Working closely with the Roscommon County Council led Town Teams initiative and Roscommon LEADER Partnership, Benny O’Connell has championed the concept of a food hub in Castlerea for many years. Benny shared his vision with the audience for a catering kitchen which will tackle the shortage in chef and hospitality staff and their future plans to develop food incubation units. Leas-Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council Nigel Dineen commended the community on their vision and ambition.
Martina Earley, CEO of Roscommon LEADER Partnership explained how the project came about “ The Food Incubators Transforming Regions project in Roscommon has established a high impact Regional Alliance consisting of Roscommon County Council (Local Enterprise Office, Town Teams), Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board, Upper Shannon Erne Future Economy project, AIT, Westbic and Castlerea Enterprise Hub. We are delighted that the event was hosted by Athlone Institute of Technology who are committed to food sector innovation and support. We thank them for taking excellent care of us and for the delicious lunch which their Hospitality Students provided.”