Kepak Kilbeggan has launched an innovative sustainability research initiative aimed at protecting, enhancing, and promoting biodiversity around the factory.
As part of the programme, Kepak has also become home to 40,000 native Irish black bees which are housed in a hive on site in Kilbeggan.
In conjunction with the Irish Research Council and Trinity College Dublin, Kepak is funding pioneering research to enhance pollinator diversity through biodiversity-friendly management actions at farm and business level.
The research findings will support the development of more evidence-based guidelines for the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, the national road map that aims to promote and sustain bees, other pollinating insects, and wider biodiversity.
As part of the initiative, Kepak has designated ‘biodiversity champions’ at site level who act as citizen scientists to conduct and monitor biodiversity.
At Kepak Kilbeggan, citizen scientist Sinéad Conry has established treatment plots in short and long grass meadows, and wildflower and herb beds are being established in the green areas surrounding the plant.
The purpose of the initiative is to investigate what each treatment provides for different types of insects, in terms of flowers through the season; the cost and effort of implementing each treatment; and whether treatments are the same among sites in different parts of the country.
Sinéad Conry, Midlands environmental manager, meat division, Kepak said: “At Kepak Kilbeggan we are really looking forward to seeing the results from our biodiversity project. We are delighted to be working with Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Research Council as part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan to discover which management actions we can take to help local biodiversity. We are hopeful that the work carried out here on site in Kilbeggan will have a very positive impact on the local biodiversity here in Kilbeggan and further afield as part of the All-Ireland approach.
“On site we have 40,000 native Irish black bees. Bees are the most important pollinator of crops and native plant species in Ireland. They provide one of the most recognisable ecosystem services - pollination - which makes food possible. By doing so, they protect and maintain ecosystems as well as animal and plant species and contribute to genetic and biotic diversity. Bees also act as indicators of the state of the environment,” she added.
Purpose of each treatment type
Long grass: Annual mowing, with the cuttings removed, can increase the variety of plant species in a grassland, providing more potential food sources for pollinating insects, and the lack of frequent disturbance can provide shelter and potential nesting sites.
Short grass: Cut less frequently than amenity grassland, so that plants have a chance to grow and flower, to provide food among the grass.
Wildflower: People are often keen to sow seed to provide food and shelter for pollinating insects, and so this treatment will test how easy this is to establish, what grows from such a mix, and what resources are provided for the insects.
Herb garden: Another alternative is to grow plants that are useful for people as well as insects, and so this treatment will contain a diversity of herbs.