The agri-food and drink sector in Ireland is a €10.8 billion industry, and one of Ireland’s most important economically, but the greenhouse gases emitted from milk and meat production in the sector makes it one of the largest sources of pollution nationwide.
With current regulations set to reduce emissions by only one-quarter of the estimated target, NUI Galway and Teagasc have joined forces to lower Ireland’s carbon footprint through a new postgraduate course, and numerous research projects, along with new methods of training and innovation.
“The climate change agenda presents many challenges for Ireland in transitioning to a low carbon, climate resilient, economy, not least of which will be how we manage our overall emissions profile,” said Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Denis Naughten.
“These challenges are well understood by Government, as reflected in the national policy position on climate action, which envisages an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.”
Head of the NUI Galway’s Plant and Agri-Biosciences Research Centre, Professor Charles Spillane, said, “FAO [Food and Agriculture Organisation] indicates that over half of farming’s direct climate impact is currently caused by methane released by livestock and from their manure.
“Climate change concerns, combined with dietary guideline drivers, are now major challenges for the agri-food sector, particularly for higher carbon footprint milk and meat products.
“There is a need, and indeed an opportunity, for NUI Galway, Teagasc, and our other partners across Ireland, to develop the next generation of innovations to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture.”
The partnership will build on an agreement, originally formed in 2000, which has seen 63 Walsh Fellowship PhD researchers and investments of more than €5.5 million exchanged between Teagasc and NUI Galway.
To generate impact, and promote an inter-disciplinary approach, Teagasc and NUI Galway will bring together research and researchers across many subject areas, including agri-biosciences, engineering, informatics, economics, marketing, and agri-business.