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Funding Wins Over €3.3M will Help Agri-Research in Ireland

By 30th April 2020 No Comments

Read about the 4 different research projects aimed at supporting sustainable and competitive agricultural production practices and policies.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD, on the 12 December 2019 last announced awards of almost €20 million in funding across 38 research projects arising from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) 2019 Competitive Call for Research. Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) was very fortunate to be involved in a number of successful Research Stimulus Fund (RSF) applications under this call.

Four researchers at WIT, Dr. Imelda Casey, Ms. Hazel Williams and Dr. Gillian Gardiner, and Dr. Nabla Kennedy have been awarded funding for research covering a range of topics across sustainable pig production, agri-environmental mitigation, digitalisation and data security in agriculture and forestry. The total project value to WIT was €765,917 with an overall project value of €3,388,584.80 across all project partners.

“AgriDISCRETE” Led by Ms. Hazel Williams (TSSG_WIT)

‘Digitalisation in agriculture and forestry through data security’ AgriDISCRETE will address multifaceted challenges related to data use, data security, data sharing and data ownership in the application of digital technologies in agricultural and forestry sectors in Ireland. Bringing together an interdisciplinary research team comprised of data scientists, business scholars, and social/behavioural scientists, the AgriDISCRETE project ensures a holistic approach to considering both the technical and the socio-economic and ethical challenges introduced by data usage and sharing in agriculture and forestry. Five integrated tasks will facilitate the research team to map current technological challenges, identify diverse stakeholder concerns, and develop societally-acceptable technological solutions and social responses. AgriDISCRETE aims to inform good data governance practices within Irish agriculture and forestry so that the benefits of digitalisation for agriculture and forestry in Ireland can be realised in a trajectory which is responsible and societally acceptable.

“PigNutriStrat” with Dr. Gillian Gardiner as WIT Principal Investigator

‘Novel nutritional and management strategies to reduce antimicrobial reliance and antimicrobial resistance on Irish pig farms’ PigNutriStrat will use a multidisciplinary research approach to develop solutions to prevent and manage multifactorial enteric diseases in pigs as a means of reducing the need for antibiotic use. This project is co-ordinated by Prof John O’Doherty of University College Dublin , and as well as Dr Gillian Gardiner from the Department of Science at WIT, involves collaborators Dr Peadar Lawlor, Teagasc, Moorepark and Prof Torres Sweeney, Dr Stafford Vigors and Prof Michael Wallace from UCD. It was awarded nearly €1.25 million in total, with €247,635 to WIT.

Reducing infection pressure and optimising gut microbiome, immunity and enzyme secretory capacity as a means of increasing lifetime pig health and productivity and reducing antibiotic use will be the focus of the project. It involves a number of on-farm and laboratory-based tasks which will investigate improved internal biosecurity and management practices in farrowing and weaner houses, management and nutritional strategies during pregnancy and lactation and post-weaning nutritional strategies. Economic modelling of potential intervention strategies will also be performed. Transfer of knowledge is assured via direct involvement of the Teagasc specialist advisors and via collaboration with relevant stakeholders in DAFM, veterinarians, pig producers and processors.

“LoCAM-dairy” with Dr. Imelda Casey as WIT Principal Investigator

Dairy farms make a very important contribution to economic growth, particularly in rural areas. They also generate significant greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions. Future growth is challenged by the need to meet national emissions reduction targets. On a Teagasc farm in Solohead Co. Tipperary  a system of milk production has been designed with the potential to halve the carbon and ammonia footprints of milk production; the LoCAM-dairy system. Dr. James Humphreys is the co-ordinator of this Teagasc-led project which is funded by the Research Stimulus fund.  Dr. Imelda Casey is WIT collaborator on this project.

The big question is how well does LoCAM-dairy compare with existing systems of milk production in terms of productivity and profitability? Once they establish that LoCAM-dairy can generate acceptable levels of profitability the wider adoption of this system on farms could well open up new opportunities for the Irish dairy sector: It could facilitate further expansion and create a unique marketing proposition for dairy products manufactured using LoCAM-dairy milk in a world where consumers are increasingly encouraged to adopt diets with lower environmental footprints.

“FaSTEN”coordinated with Dr. Imelda Casey and Dr. Nabla Kennedy WIT as Principal Investigators (EIRC, WIT)

Waterford institute of technology are also collaborating on a second grassland Teagasc project with Johnstown Castle.  Dr. Dave Wall is the Teagasc co-ordinator of this Research Stimulus-funded project called FASTeni.e. ‘Farm sustainability tools for efficient nutrient management’. The WIT collaborators are Dr. Nabla Kennedy and Dr. Imelda Casey.  This is a large project also involving UCD and that has a total grant of €1.2 million with €244,000 to WIT.  The FaSTEN project will develop new knowledge to improve nitrogen use efficiency on farms thus reducing the potential for nitrogen losses and emissions to the environment.

FaSTEN will build a new understanding of soils and key technologies for efficient nutrient management and will identify best knowledge transfer methods for primary stakeholders. In addition nutrient management support tools tailored to specific soils, environments and farming systems will be developed to aid farmers and advisory personnel to make sustainable nutrient management decisions and benchmark future success.

Sustainable and competitive

These Research Stimulus Funds by DAFM have provided much needed funding for agricultural production-related research in WIT. The main aims of the programme, to support sustainable and competitive agricultural production practices and policies, and contribute to building and maintaining a knowledge economy and research capability in the primary agriculture sector. These are in line with WIT’s agenda for agricultural research.

Speaking to Brian Foley of the Research Office in WIT, he indicated that “these grant awards are made for projects undertaken collaboratively and these four examples are testament to the volume of engagement and collaboration WIT researchers are involved in. Furthermore, he indicated that WIT has a very strong position when it comes to research in the Agri space and these projects strengthen the interdisciplinary nature of our research teams which comprise of agricultural scientists, microbiologists, grassland agronomists, data scientists, business scholars, and social/behavioural scientists”

Dr. Mark White, Vice President of Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies at WIT, said, “These projects are a demonstration of the hard work put in by the researchers and their ability to collaborate on problems that require input from different disciplines. WIT has a strong history of securing research funding from DAFM and these latest projects are a great examples of the cooperation model encouraged by research programmes like the Research Stimulus Fund.”