Smart solutions for Irish farming

A partnership to create smart agriculture technologies, which will increase Irish competitiveness in the agri-food sector, has been signed by Tyndall National Institute and Teagasc.

The Irish agricultural sector is of vital importance, contributing €24bn to the national economy, accounting for 10% of national exports, and is directly responsible for 7.7% of national employment.

Through the partnership, the two organisations will work together to secure maximum EU Horizon 2020 funding and create up to 10 graduate research positions. Horizon 2020 is a new funding programme for research and innovation and is part of the drive to create growth and jobs across Europe in response to the economic crisis.

It has an overall budget of some €78bn and is broken down into three main pillars: Excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges.

Societal challenges is the pillar of most interest to the agri-food, forestry and marine sector. It has a budget of €3.8bn. A primary aim is to contribute towards securing sufficient supplies of safe, healthy and high quality food and bio-based products and transform Europe into a sustainable bio-economy. The combined expertise at the Tyndall and Teagasc will enable the development of new technologies, products, and services in the agri-food sector.

The Tyndall is one of Europe’s leading research centres in information and communications technology (ICT) research and development, and the largest facility of its type in Ireland. It was established in 2004 as a successor to the National Microelectronics Research Centre, founded in 1982 at University College Cork. The Tyndall employs more than 460 researchers, engineers, and support staff, with a full-time graduate cohort of 135 students generating over 200 peer-reviewed publications each year.

Teagasc is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities.

It is a client-based organisation employing approximately 1,100 staff at 52 locations throughout Ireland with an annual operating budget in excess of €160m. It operates in partnership with all sectors of the agriculture and food industry and with rural development agencies.

Teagasc has also developed close alliances with research, advisory, and training agencies worldwide. Around 75% of Teagasc’s yearly budget comes from the Irish exchequer and EU funding, with the balance generated from earned income.

Some 40% of the budget is devoted to research with the remainder split half and half between advisory and education services.

Agriculture, Food, and Marine Minister Simon Coveney welcomed the signing of the memorandum of understanding between what he called two of the nation’s great research assets, Teagasc and Tyndall.

“The ability to innovate and evolve our agricultural practices has been a key aspect to the emergence of agri-food as one of the cornerstones of our national economic recovery,” he said, adding the research being partnered by these two bodies has the capacity to enhance Ireland’s reputation, as a leading agricultural country.

Professor Gerry Boyle of Teagasc said the requirement for greater agricultural productivity and food production, while reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient leaching, is a very real and tangible problem for the 21st century that must be resolved.

Combining state-of-the-art ICT and sensor technologies with ongoing improvements to plant and animal breeding, grassland management, and animal husbandry practices places Ireland at the forefront to meet this challenge.

The memorandum of understanding between Teagasc and the Tyndall formalises existing collaborations and will act as a springboard for the development of new collaborations between the scientists in these two institutes.

“The era of smart agriculture is upon us, and this partnership has the potential to make Ireland a leader in the field of smart agriculture,” he said

Tyndall chief executive Dr Kieran Drain said this partnership represents a key milestone for the institute in the pursuit of its stated goals, laid out in its five-year business plan.

“Through this formal partnership with Teagasc, we will be in a position to converge our unique set of skills and drive the kind of national economic impact that we believe the scientific community can contribute to the food and agri sectors in Ireland. Not only will this partnership progress the science of agriculture, it will also aim to produce new technologies that can create greater efficiencies and develop new products and services,” he said.

With a network of 200 industry partners and customers worldwide, the Tyndall generates around €30m income each year, 85% from competitively won contracts nationally and internationally. It is also a lead partner in European research partnerships in its core areas of ICT, communications, energy, health, and the environment worth €44m, including €6m accruing to industry in Ireland.

The memorandum of understanding between Tyndall and Teagasc will provide the foundation for a series of projects aimed at making agriculture smarter and more efficient. Developing innovative and new products in rapidly changing markets is one of the aims of Food Harvest 2020, the State’s blueprint for the smart, sustainable growth of the agri-food sector.

The era of smart agriculture is upon us, and this partnership has the potential to make Ireland a leader in the field


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