top of page

ARCZero Chair Professor John Gilliland gives his inaugural lecture at Queen’s University

Professor John Gilliland delivering his inaugural lecture as Professor of Practice in the Great Hall at Queen's University Belfast
Professor John Gilliland delivering his inaugural lecture as Professor of Practice in the Great Hall at Queen's University Belfast

A high-profile audience from the world of local, national and international agri-food attended the inaugural lecture of Professor John Gilliland, marking his honorary Professorship from Queen’s University Belfast.

A former President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union and Chair of DEFRA’s Rural Climate Change Forum, Prof Gilliland is a well-known figure in the UK and Irish food and farming industries, as a leading businessman, policy advocate, farmer and scientist. He is currently Director of Agriculture & Sustainability at Devenish Nutrition and collaborates with the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s on research projects aimed at improving the sustainability of agriculture. He was appointed ‘Professor of Practice’ in November of last year.

The lecture and panel discussion on Tuesday evening were hosted by IGFS in partnership with the Irish Farmers’ Journal newspaper and took place at the Great Hall at Queen’s.

Among the audience was Lord Deben, former UK Secretary of State for the Environment and current Chair of the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee (CCC). He was accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer of the CCC, Chris Stark.

Panellists included Australian businessman and regenerative-farming campaigner, Alisdair MacLeod, Chair of the Macdoch Group. It made headlines around the world when a subsidiary, Wilmot Cattle Farm, sold half a million US dollars’ worth of carbon credits to software giant Microsoft. Under the deal, Microsoft reportedly plans to offset emissions via 40,000 tonnes of carbon sequestered in the soil of the New South Wales ranch.

The other panellists were Hugh Harbison, a dairy farmer from County Londonderry and a member of the DAERA-European Innovation Partnership project ARC Zero (in which Queen’s is a partner); and Thomas Duffy, a dairy farmer from Co Cavan and Chair of Teagasc’s Signpost farm advisory committee. Acting as Chair of the Panel was Prof Gerry Boyle, former Director of Teagasc and a Trustee of AgriSearch.

A scheme which financially rewards Northern Ireland farmers for reducing their net greenhouse gas emissions has been proposed by Professor John Gilliland who made the case for a system of carbon credits which incentivises farmers to build carbon stores on their farms.

“We, as an industry, shouldn’t be scared of this journey. What we have learned at Dowth and what we have learned in ARCZero, is this journey has given us an awful lot of new data about these farms that we didn’t know. It has empowered us to be better managers”, he said.

Links to the recordings of the proceedings are below:

Full programme:

Professor Stuart Elborn:

Professor Nigel Scollan:

John Gilliland Keynote Speech:

Panel Discussion:

A link to an article in the Irish Farmers Journal on the lecture can be found here:



bottom of page