Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Charlie McConalogue, TD, and Minister of State Martin Heydon, TD, today jointly announced awards of €20 million in funding for 24 research projects arising from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Competitive Research Call 2021.
Announcing the awards, Minister McConalogue stated: “The research investment announced today is aimed at ensuring the Irish Agri-food sector is in a position to deliver on the ambitious goals set out in the Food Vision 2030 Strategy. This is most notable in terms of delivering a sustainable Food System capable of ensuring the supply of safe and nutritious food while protecting the environment.”
Minister Heydon who has responsibility for research and development said: “Of particular note is the investment of over €12 million across 10 projects with an environmental and climate theme. Investment in these projects will help farmers to deliver on the Climate Action Plan 2021.”
He continued: “A number of projects focus on potential threats to food security arising from climate change, with one project exploring the potential to diversify protein sources on an all-island basis, another looks at increased disease risks from vector-borne pathogens affecting animals and humans and another at threats to sustainable and safe shell-fish production.
“Many of the projects funded will contribute to sustainable production and processing. For example, three projects focused on the forest sector will examine the potential to improve climate regulation, enhance bio-diversity and facilitate sustainable timber solutions. Another innovative project focuses on sustainable packing with improved shelf-life for highly perishable food products, such as fish, thereby contributing to a reduction in food waste and plastic pollution while also potentially facilitating transport to more distant markets. "
Two of the projects led by UCD support the All-Island Food Integrity Initiative, Food-I, to deliver food production systems that produce food that is safe, nutritious and authentic, produced in ethical and sustainable ways that protect the environment and all those who work in the agriculture and food sectors.
Protein-I will take a food-systems approach to enhancing the sustainability of protein production across the island of Ireland. Led by the UCD Institute of Food and Health’s Professor Lorraine Brennan, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, and Professor Fiona Doohan, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, the project will focus on plant production through to human health, paying particular attention to the development of Ireland’s rural bio-economy.
Professor Brennan said: “We need to transform our current food system if we are to feed the rapidly expanding global population whilst maintaining the health of the planet. In Ireland specifically, there is an urgent need to diversify the foods that currently contribute to our protein intake. Protein-I will enable us to combine leading expertise to maximise benefits across the food system. Our project will be a key step towards future-proofing our food system on the island of Ireland in a way that helps protect our health and that of the planet.”
Awarded €1,675,063.28 (co-funded with Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Island (DAERA NI)), collaborating institutions include Teagasc, Queens University Belfast, Ulster University, University College Cork and National University of Ireland Galway. Read more about Protein-I.
Mycotox-I will ensure the safety and quality of grain produce on the island of Ireland. Led by Professor Fiona Doohan, the project will select the most critical control points for monitoring and controlling mycotoxin contamination of grain and milled product.
Professor Doohan said: “Mycotox-I brings together crop science, food science, analytical chemistry and data analytics to reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination, while demonstrating the safety and quality of Irish grain. Harmful mycotoxins are produced in cereal grain by fungal diseases, and the levels in food are governed by existing and impending EU legislative limits. This project will gather all of the information needed to develop decision-support systems that will ensure the sustainable production of safe, quality cereal grain produce across Ireland.”
Awarded €1,528,768.65 (co-funded with DAERA NI), collaborating institutions include Teagasc, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Queens University Belfast, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute. Read more about Mycotox-I.
Other projects led by UCD under the DAFM 2021 competitive call include:
Blood feeding insects are important vectors of pathogens affecting humans and animals. With the combined effects of climate change, widespread establishment of exotic vector-borne pathogens in continental Europe, and increased trade in livestock and goods between Ireland and the continent, Ireland is at increased risk from invasive arthropod vectors and vector-borne disease. This project aims to establish a national network of expertise in arthropod vectors and vector-borne diseases including academics, public sector, and community representatives. The current distribution of biting midges and mosquitoes and vector-borne pathogens, identified using standard conventional and newly developed cutting-edge technologies, will be determined, and analysed against previous data to identify trends and assess the likely effects of climate change. By enhancing the understanding and vigilance of the population with regard to vectors and vector-borne disease, this study will help to improve Ireland’s preparedness and reduce the threat of vector-borne disease to human and animal health.
RapidHort is a circular demonstration model based on Irish grown microgreens that will enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of horticultural food production. These microgreens display rapid growth and rapid deterioration, which compounds the challenges faced in commercial horticulture. The project will bring together key stakeholders including academics, growers, processors, and consumers. Using a food systems approach, the project aims to characterise the impact of variation and interactions within the model on nutritional, microbial, sensory, growing and processing properties of the microgreens. In addition, it will explore the potential of using waste heat from data centres to power vertical farming to reduce waste and achieve greater environmental sustainability. The goal of the project is to provide growers and processors with the tools to develop and deliver horticultural products with increased sustainability, nutritional value, and competitiveness.
Development of a vaccine against bovine coronavirus variants that cause respiratory disease in cattle (€198,176.23), led by Dr Gerald Barry, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine.
Maintaining good animal health is a priority in the agricultural sector and vaccines can help to do that by training the immune system to defend the body against infections. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, new vaccine technology, centred on mRNA, has emerged. We propose to harness that technology to protect cattle, focussing on a virus called Bovine Coronavirus. This virus causes problems in the lungs of cattle and can also causes life threatening diarrhoea in young calves. In collaboration with partners in DAFM, Teagasc and Waterford IT, we will firstly survey cattle in Ireland to identify the common variant that circulates here. We will then use that information to build a variant specific mRNA vaccine that will express the Spike protein of the virus. This project aims to address a problem that impacts cattle, not just in Ireland but across the world.
Transformation to Continuous Cover Forestry: Synergies and Trade-off’s (€840,103.98), led by Professor Aine Ni Dhubhain, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, in collaboration with Teagasc Ashtown and National University of Ireland Maynooth.
Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) involves the use of silvicultural systems whereby the forest canopy is maintained at all times. In Ireland, an increasing number of forest owners have started the long-term process of transforming their forests to CCF. This project aims to estimate the total area of forest in Ireland that is suitable for transformation to CCF. Current drivers and barriers to CCF adoption in Ireland will also be identified. Different approaches to CCF transformation and their likely impact on forest-related ecosystem services will be assessed. To address an existing knowledge gap, current growth models will be evaluated and calibrated for use in modelling tree growth in CCF stands. Ultimately, this project will provide a realistic evaluation of how and where CCF transformation can be implemented in Ireland over the coming decades, and the consequences for forest ecosystem service delivery.
Dr Zoe McKay (UCD Agriculture and Food Science), PASTURE-NUE A multidisciplinary approach to increasing the nitrogen use efficiency of pasture-based systems, led by Dr Michael Dineen, Teagasc Moorepark.
Dr Brian Tobin (UCD Agriculture and Food Science) and Dr Jon Yearsley (UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science), Adaptation, mitigation, and protection strategies to increase resilience of Irish forests to address the impacts of climate change, led by Dr Niall Farrelly, Teagasc.
Prof Frank Monahan (UCD Agriculture and Food Science), Flavoromics of Grass-Fed Beef and Lamb, led by Dr Kieran Kilcawley, Teagasc.
Prof Francis Butler (UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering), Increasing Risk of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Events In Ireland, led by Dr Dave Clarke, Marine Institute.
Prof Paul Whyte (UCD School of Veterinary Medicine), Assuring the Chemical and Microbial Safety of Organic Waste Spread on Land in Ireland, led by Dr Declan Bolton, Teagasc.
Associate Prof Mary Kelly-Quinn (UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science), Accounting for Forest Ecosystem Services in Ireland, led by Dr Jane Stout, Trinity College Dublin.
Dr Paul Murphy (UCD Agriculture and Food Science), Land-Use, Agriculture and Bioenergy Measures for the Abatement of Climate Change and inclusion in Marginal Abatement Cost Curve analyses, led by Dr Karl Richards, Teagasc.
Dr Lucie Adenaeuer (UCD Agriculture and Food Science)/Dr Siobhan Mullan (UCD School of Veterinary Medicine), Using a 'One Welfare' framework to develop alternative high welfare pig production systems, led by Dr Keelin O'Driscoll, Teagasc.
Prof Pat Lonergan (UCD Agriculture and Food Science), Accelerating genetic gain and improving beef output from dairy herds, led by Dr Stephen Butler, Teagasc.
Dr Saoirse Tracy (UCD Agriculture and Food Science), Utilising organic bio-resources and novel technologies to develop specifically designed and sustainable peat replacements for professional horticultural crop production, led by Dr Michael Gaffney, Teagasc.
Read more about these and other DAFM projects on Gov.ie.