Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State Martin Heydon jointly launched €20m in funding aimed at 24 different research projects in the agri-food sector with an aim to deliver on Food Vision 2030 targets.
Some €12m in funding will be spread across 10 projects with an environmental and climate theme.
Minister McConalogue said the funding will help deliver "a sustainable food system capable of ensuring the supply of safe and nutritious food while protecting the environment”.
The Minister said that these grants will ensure that we stay ahead of the challenges we will face and will allow us work together for the benefit of everyone in the sector.
Minister Heydon, who has responsibility for research and development, said: “We are co-funding two projects with the Environmental Protection Agency, one related to abatement measures and associated cost curves to facilitate reduced emissions from agriculture and one on the re-wetting of farmland to enhance carbon sinks."
A number of projects focus on potential threats to food security arising from climate change.
He also said that other projects funded will contribute to sustainable production and processing.
Three projects are focused on the forestry sector that will examine the potential to improve climate regulation, enhance bio-diversity and facilitate sustainable timber solutions.
Minister Heydon said: "My Department’s commitment to ‘One-Health’ and food safety is also reflected in the selection of projects for funding, with one project examining over-reliance on anthelmintics in the sheep sector, whilst another is to examine the concentration of residues and pathogens in manure used for land spreading and another will be examining risks associated with mycotoxins in cereals."
There are projects which aim to add value to the Irish food industry through diversification and food product innovations.
Funding is available for providing the evidence base for value added plant products and the propagation of micro greens in vertical farming systems.
Another project will focus on the flavour profiles of grass-fed beef and sheepmeat to substantiate quality claims, while another will focus on genetics to improve beef outputs from dairy herds.
Minister Heydon highlighted that a number of socio-economic projects have also been selected for funding, including a project on generational renewal and the transitioning of farm assets to younger generations, while securing the financial stability of older generations.
There is also a project on identifying mental health issues among the farming community and developing a bespoke mental health education programme to improve knowledge and seeking help among the farming population.
Minister Heydon said that the greater emphasis on knowledge transfer aims to ensure that outputs and impacts from the funded projects are maximised during the course of the projects and beyond.
"This is important given the call’s emphasis on sustainability in the context of the current climate related challenges and the need to deliver on the Climate Action Plan 2021," Minister Heydon said
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Island is providing up to €2.4m in additional funding to Northern Ireland-based institutions involved in six research projects.
Benefits of the funding
The investment across all 24 projects will provide higher education opportunities for 61 postgraduate students - 52 in the form of PhDs and nine master’s degrees.
Some 59 contract position opportunities will be provided for postdoctoral and other researchers also.
The total investment by both departments of over €22m adds to the €175.5m allocated to national and international agri-food research programmes over the period since 2011.
"As a shared food island, we have a strong working relationship with DAERA and I am glad to see this further strengthened,” Minister McConalogue concluded.