Leading NI businesswoman appointed honorary professor at Queen's University

A leading Northern Ireland, agrifood businesswoman has been appointed honorary 'Professor of Practice' at the Institute for Global Food Security and School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University Belfast.

Ursula Lavery is Technical and R&D Director Europe at Moy Park, Northern Ireland’s largest private-sector employer and one of Europe’s largest chicken processors. She is also currently Vice Chairperson of trade body, the NI Food and Drink Association (NIFDA).

A Queen’s University graduate in Food Science, she is a well-known and respected thought leader. As well as partnering on a series of scientific-research publications, she has brought that research to bear more closely on the local agrifood industry. Her career also demonstrates a sustained commitment to animal welfare, animal health and the Northern Ireland business community.

She has worked closely with IGFS for the past decade, including Professor Chris Elliott OBE, helping develop a safer food-supply system for animal feed on the island of Ireland via the Food Fortress project.

She has also partnered with Professor Niamh O’Connell on a series of projects aimed at enhancing chicken welfare, resulting in major changes to poultry production and international, welfare guidelines. This ongoing work – looking at next-generation broiler welfare through smart technology and AI - will form a key project led by Queen’s under the Digital Health And Agrifood pillar of the Belfast Region City Deal.

Professor Lavery’s track record in promoting animal health includes dedicated efforts to reducing Campylobacter in poultry production, for which she won a major award from Waitrose in 2015, as well as a commitment to reducing antimicrobials in farmed animals and she is a founding member of the Food Industrial Initiative on Antimicrobials.

She sits on a number of boards including that of IGFS and the AgriFood Quest Competence Centre, which connects agrifood businesses in NI with universities and research; and serves on the Food Industry Liaison Group of the Food Standards Agency NI. She is also a non-executive director of the Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), a UK body established under the (UK) Government’s Agri-tech Strategy, and of the supervisory board of GS1 UK, which seeks to apply international standards via barcodes to consumer goods, healthcare products and more.

Over the years, Professor Lavery has been singled out for a series of industry awards including a NIFDA Award for Outstanding Leadership during Covid-19; ‘International Director of the Year’ from the NI Institute of Directors in 2021; and a Women in Business leadership award in 2016.

Commenting on the appointment, Director of IGFS Professor Nigel Scollan said: “Ursula Lavery is highly regarded locally, nationally and internationally. She brings invaluable experience in the area of food safety, food quality, food microbiology, food standards and legislation.

“This experience will provide an additional dimension to IGFS and the School of Biological Sciences, both in mentoring the next generation of agrifood professionals and partnering in research and innovation programmes.”

Professor Lavery said: “It is a great privilege to receive this honour from the university. Queen’s and the Institute for Global Food Security have played a key role both in research and development and cultivating future leaders within our industry.

“Agrifood is one of our most exciting and dynamic industries and in my role as Professor of Practice I look forward to supporting researchers and students as they explore new opportunities and challenges.”

Pictured at the announcement of Ursula Lavery's honorary professorship are (l-r): Professor Ciaren Graham, Deputy Head, School of Biological Sciences; Prof Nigel Scollan, Director, IGFS; Ursula Lavery, Technical and R&D Director Europe, Moy Park; Stephane Durand, Agri Food Quest Competence Centre Manager; and Prof Sharon Huws, Director of Research, IGFS.