A flagship food development project in the heart of one of Ireland’s richest farmland areas has been unveiled, with the official launch of the Boyne Valley Food Hub in Navan.
The new Food Hub, located in the Meath Enterprise Centre in Navan, was officially opened by the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Neale Richmond, who said, “I am delighted to be here in Navan to officially open Boyne Valley Food Hub. This flagship project will enable the development of sustainable and profitable food businesses in the region and will support local entrepreneurs and start-ups as well as existing businesses. A core strategy of the Mid-East Regional Enterprise Plan is the development of agri food hubs and the provision of almost €1.9 million to this project under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund and REDF /BEDF Addendum Fund underlines the government’s commitment to developing clusters and collaboration in the regions that will boost economic growth and employment.”
Conceived and operated by Meath Enterprise, it consists of almost 800 square metres of light industrial space which has been transformed into nine commercial food grade incubation units as well as a food research and development lab and a sensory testing training facility. Also opened in the Navan centre was a new coworking hub to supports food Startups and SMEs.
The Meath Enterprise Centre is already home to Complex Nutrition, a leading contract food manufacturer, and the ambition of Meath Enterprise is that the Navan centre will become the fulcrum of its ambitious Boyne Valley Food Innovation District (BVFID) which aims to create a food cluster that will aid food start-ups and SMEs to grow and ultimately plug into global market opportunities.
Carol Gibbons, Divisional Manager, Regions and Local Enterprise with Enterprise Ireland said, “Enterprise Ireland has been proud to support the Boyne Valley Food Hub and it’s great to see the formal opening of this innovative flagship project today. Meath and the Mid-East region has a long tradition of excellence in food production and this new facility will ensure that the next generation of food entrepreneurs can produce the sustainable, quality products that will drive Ireland’s capacity to building world-class food brands and compete and win in global markets.”
The new Boyne Valley Food Hub is one of the central projects which will make up the Boyne Valley Food Innovation District. Meath Enterprise is also in the early stages of developing a new 28,000sq ft Digital Innovation and Smart Agri Hub at the Meath Enterprise Centre in Navan which will support the development and expansion of Irish food-tech and ag-tech start-ups and SMEs.
Gary O’Meara, CEO of Meath Enterprise, said the idea behind the BVFID is to find opportunities in global and emerging markets and then match these opportunities to indigenous food start-ups and SMEs which have the capability and ambition to go global, “the ambition is to create this regional cluster that becomes the Silicon Valley of food. That is what we are trying to create. So, anyone wanting to start or scale a food business should be able to engage with us – and that way, we can hopefully be a gateway to the market opportunities they need to be able to grow and scale.”
The enterprise development company already has appointed a food innovation and training specialist with a strong background in new product development to champion the development of the new food hub. The organisation has long identified a severe lack of appropriate space for food entrepreneurship across the region and believes the new facility will be somewhere that creativity, innovation and ideas can be brought to life.
Gary O’Meara said developing new products to meet changing consumer demands is a constant challenge for small food start-ups and artisan producers hamstrung by a lack of suitable high-quality, food grade spaces that are essential in bringing new products to market.
O’Meara added, “we have lots of expertise here in terms of food technology to support the entrepreneurs who will be based in the hub or anyone coming to us looking for advice, guidance or training.”
Ahead of the launch, the Meath Enterprise Centre – the largest rural hub of its kind in Ireland – has undergone a major refurbishment, both externally and internally. A realignment of the entrance and a new tarmacadam surface is aimed at better facilitating the movement of traffic around the site as well as futureproofing it for the further expansion to come.
Jackie Maguire, Chief Executive, Meath County Council concluded, “the Agri-Food sector has been identified as of major importance to the economic development of Meath. Meath County Council is delighted to support the development of innovative projects such as the Boyne Valley Food Innovation District and in particular the Food Hub, which will assist in establishing the County as a centre of excellence for food production with a thriving network of businesses and research institutions. The collaborative opportunities that will come out of this will help businesses fuel innovation, share resources and talent, as well as access new markets.”