Agri-food research projects receive multi-million pound funding boost
ALMOST £2 million of funding has been awarded to a number of flagship research projects that will drive the international reputation of the Northern agri-food industry.
Significant investment has been made in projects that bring together the north's agri-food sector and scientists from the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen's University, Belfast in an unprecedented, high-level partnership.
These projects have secured the investment through Agri Food Quest, a collaboration between IGFS, Ulster University and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), and which is funded by Invest NI.
A further 11 IGFS projects have been awarded almost €1 million of funding through the EIT Food consortium. All of the projects had to compete with other, high-level bids to win the funding.
The flagship projects, which have been granted close to £2million over the next three years include Food Fortress, a research project initiated in the wake of the 2009 Dioxin crisis in animal feed, which cost the local industry close to £1 billion. Professor Chris Elliott, IGFS founder and now pro-vice-chancellor at Queen's University, led a team to come up with an effective surveillance system to provide early detection of contamination in animal feed. In the next stage of the project, the diagnostic model will be extended to detecting and preventing contamination in the Northern Ireland dairy system, and to tracing and tracking locally-produced poultry and pork. The project will continue to be led by Professor Elliott and will include 10 industry partners, including Finnebrogue, Lakeland, LacPatrick Dairies, Glanbia Cheese, Dale Farm and JMW Farms.
Another flagship project to receive funding is Food Futures. Led by Professor Nigel Scollan, director of IGFS, along with Dr Steven Morrison, of AFBI, the project aims to put sustainability at the heart of the Northern Ireland agri-food sector, by developing a series of metrics and industry tools with which to measure sustainability. 30 ‘ambassador farms' will take part in the scheme, as well as 11 industry partners including AgriSearch, Dale Farm, Lakeland, Linden Foods and Hewitt Meats.
Professor Scollan said the future of NI's agri-food industry depended on research that was tailored to meet the needs of society and consumers.
“This investment is a perfect example of what happens when leading research is twinned with the best of our local industry. The fact that IGFS has attracted this investment for so many projects in one go demonstrates the pioneering quality of the Institute – many of these projects are based on world-leading research – that can underpin the quality of our local produce.”