Report Synopsis

Future Proofing the Irish Agri-Food Sector Through Robust Research

Karina Pierce

Research seeks to address agri-food challenges and is critically important as a driver of innovation and competitiveness of our agri-food industry. The industry faces many challenges, such as meeting our environmental commitments, climate change, growing antiagriculture sentiment and addressing consumer concerns around animal welfare. Many of these challenges are not specific to Ireland, but are indeed global challenges, and therefore Ireland can learn from the experience of others.

The overall aim of this study was to evaluate if the future needs of Irelands agri-food sector are being addressed through current research. The objectives were to: review the research landscape in Ireland including the main funding agencies and research performing organisations, investigate current and future focussed research priorities in Ireland and other major agri-food producing countries, with a focus on pasture-based production systems and finally to identify key concepts and actions required for the development of a future focussed research and innovation agenda. The objectives were met through visits and meetings with a broad range of researchers, farmers, publicly funded organisations, Government officials, entrepreneurs and businesses over the course of my Nuffield travels to 11 countries including, America, China, New Zealand, Australia, France and Belgium.

The main findings of the study showed that the RD&I system has a key role to play in providing solutions to transform the food system into more sustainable, resilient, responsible, diverse, competitive and inclusive pathways. However, the Irish agri-food sector, when benchmarked against its global competitors, underperforms in terms of RD&I expenditure. To be transformative, there needs to be a move from component type research to a more systems approach that incorporates all elements of the food chain, from primary production through to the health and behaviour of consumers. Given the complexity of the issues facing the sector, a major focus on fostering a collaborative environment around key industry issues is critical as strong partnerships between industry, policy-makers and research providers will be required to ensure that science is translated into strong business, policy and management decisions.

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