Output from Northern Ireland's farming and food industry amounted to £4.4bn in just one year with the sector underpinning 22,000 full-time jobs.
These figures, from 2016, are rising, with farm incomes increasing by 87% in 2017, a top civil servant said yesterday.
But Dennis McMahon, who is permanent secretary at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), said this growth must be achieved against the backdrop of a living, working and active countryside.
Mr McMahon was the keynote speaker at the DAERA breakfast, which traditionally kick-starts day two of the Balmoral Show.
He added: "Farm incomes increased by 87% in 2017. This was a very positive and welcome development. For its part, DAERA secured a competitive allocation in the budget allocations for Northern Ireland's public sectors in 2018.
"This means that the department can fully commit to many of the rural development and farm capital projects that have been earmarked for local agriculture.
Mr McMahon admitted that Brexit represents a major challenge for the food and farming sectors.
"Uncertainty still abounds. However, DAERA officials are interacting with key influencers in London, Brussels and Dublin on this matter," he said.
"This level of interaction will be maintained over the coming months. We are also scoping out possible future support options for agriculture.
"Current funding levels are guaranteed until 2022. However, DAERA staff are actively working through a range of policy options that will best meet the needs of local farmers into the future."
Mr McMahon hailed the securing of new export markets as one of the great success stories notched up by the local food industry in the last couple of years.
"DAERA officials have played a key role in opening up the Chinese market to imports of pork from Northern Ireland," he said.
"And the same principle holds where the Australian market is concerned."
Mr McMahon confirmed that his staff, in tandem with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in London, had helped secure a total 184 new export market opportunities for food companies in Northern Ireland.
He also referenced the growing use of digital technology within the farming sector.
"For the first time we have received a 100% digital uptake, regarding applications submitted for the Single Farm Payment support system," he added.
"However, we are also seeing the much greater use of digital technology across the broad spectrum of farming and food activity carried out here in Northern Ireland.
But Mr McMahon also made it very clear that farmers must face up to the greater environmental challenges that are coming down the track.
"Reducing ammonia emissions is a case in point," he stressed.
"Local farmers have a very strong track record of adapting successfully to changing circumstances. And, no doubt, this will continue to be the case as we look to the future."