All seven NICHE partners are looking forward to continuing their work building upon international best practice, after the second interregional learning event and staff exchange visit was hosted by Derry City and Strabane District Council in Derry from March 14th-17th.

Catherine Goligher, NICHE Project Officer for Derry, said: “We were delighted to welcome our NICHE project partners to the City and to showcase the best practice which is happening here in our local food sector. “From the Food Innovation conference and workshops which shared best practice and knowledge locally, to study visits to the Foodovation Centre at North West Regional College and producers, valuable opportunities were created to build networks, to learn and exchange knowledge. “We look forward to continuing to work together on the NICHE project and to develop a local food strategy which aids and supports innovation within our local food chain. ”Representatives from the six visiting partner regions – Romania (lead partner), Republic of Ireland, Estonia, Finland, Crete and Poland were warmly welcomed on arrival at Derry’s Guildhall by the Mayor Alderman Hilary McClintock. Keynote speakers at the two-day Food Innovation conference included Michele Shirlow, CEO of Food NI and Artie Clifford, Chairperson of Irish Food Awards Blas na hEireann – the biggest competition for quality Irish produce on the island of Ireland – who emphasised that innovation in the food industry is critical to future business growth. Commenting on the event, Mr Clifford said: “It was great to spend time at the NICHE conference in Derry, surrounded by like-minded people from across Europe. Every person I met was passionate about their own regional food and drink. It was clear that all who attended willingly engaged in the transfer of knowledge, experience and innovation. I wish all the participants success with the rest of the project. "Martina Rogers of Northbound Brewery, one of the key local producers who addressed the conference, added: “Innovation is at the forefront of what we do. Meeting interregional partners gave us an opportunity to gather information on how producers across Europe innovate and approach their own respective businesses. It also gave us a platform to speak about our brewery, how we approach innovation and collaborate with other producers. ”Brian McDermott, Manager of the Foodovation Centre, addressed delegates on ‘Realising Business Ambitions in Food and Drink’. The conference heard presentations from partner regions and interregional workshops were held with producers. Study visits took place to the Foodovation Centre and Corndale Farm, producers of Northern Ireland’s first handmade chorizo. The project partners also enjoyed a visit to the award-winning LegenDerry Food Festival, winner of Best Food Event at the recent NI Year of Food and Drink Awards, which was taking place in the city.