Two further education colleges offering courses in the agriculture sector are to be given a boost, under a new £75 million investment in renovating the campus buildings.
The campuses at Loughry and Greenmount – which operate as CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) - offer courses within the agri-food industry and the investment announced by agriculture minister Edwin Poots will see the funds split between both.
The Loughry campus outside Cookstown will receive £43million, while Greenmount in Antrim is set to benefit from £32million.
The new building work, which includes new modern student accommodation and high-tech facilities, is expected to begin as soon as late 2022 with a target completion date for the works expected in 2028.
Announcing the investment, the minister Edwin Poots said: “CAFRE has a well renowned reputation within the agri-food industry for providing excellent tuition and training facilities for the next generation of farmers, growers and agri-food personnel.
“The buildings at the heart of Loughry and Greenmount Campuses, where students live, study and socialise, were built over 50 years ago.
“It is therefore fitting that my Department is making this investment in the Centenary year of Northern Ireland.
“Our agri-food sector has faced many challenges over the past century and has grown to develop a global reputation for high quality food and traceability.
“It is now time to invest in each campus to provide modern, well-designed facilities which will meet the needs of students, staff and industry during the next century.
“The plans for Loughry will also include a Science Centre which will be shared with food research staff in the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). These top class facilities will be the centre of knowledge and innovation for the industry leaders and decision-makers of the future.
"I also welcome the fact that the design and construction of the new buildings will be environmentally sustainable, enhancing the well-being of all who use, live and work in them."