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Unlocking protein potential in Ireland

TResearch Autumn

Teagasc researchers are exploring sustainable crop- and marine-based protein resources to create new opportunities for the agriculture and food sector in Ireland.

The Food Vision 2030 strategy aims to solidify Ireland as a world leader in sustainable food systems. At the heart of the strategy are four high-level missions:

  1. A climate smart, environmentally sustainable agri-food sector.
  2. Viable and resilient primary producers with enhanced wellbeing.
  3. Food which is safe, nutritious and appealing: trusted and valued at home and abroad.
  4. An innovative, competitive and resilient agri-food sector, driven by technology and talent.

To help embed the agri-food sector in a circular and regenerative Irish bio-economy, Teagasc has collaborated with University College Cork, National University of Ireland (NUI) Maynooth, NUI Galway, University of Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast in a multi-disciplinary project known as U-Protein.

U-Protein is led by Teagasc’s Mark Fenelon, Head of Food Research, and aims to unlock new sources of protein from crop and marine resources. The basis of the project is that Ireland’s natural resources can be diversified to develop alternative protein sources, create an informed and diverse agri-ecosystem and accelerate Ireland’s path to becoming a responsible global leader in the supply and knowledge of nutritious food solutions.

The overall objective of U-Protein is to identify and exploit existing and novel protein sources within the Irish agro-ecological system, in particular crop sources (grassland, cereals, legume, oilseed and niche crops) and the marine. Protein is the key driver of human health, growth and development, and by investigating compositional and functional properties of alternative proteins, U-Protein ultimately aims to deliver quality nutrition for consumers, while also supporting the competitiveness of the rural and coastal agri-economies.

Supporting Ireland in responsible food production

Research on U-Protein spans the entire production process, including the identification and characterisation of proteins from crop grasses, forage and the marine, the processing and sustainability of these proteins, clinical studies and finally incorporation into a consumer product. The protein crops identified include faba beans, peas, lupins, tubers and three different marine sources.

Protein has been extracted from identified sources that are suitable for growth in Ireland. In some cases, more than 75% protein has been recovered. In support of the sustainable circular bio-economy, the residual biomass from these protein sources will be assessed for bioactive components or valorised to novel or renewable products.

U-Protein has the potential to create a new food enterprise that can co-exist with dairy, meat and cereal sectors. The project team are vastly experienced in meat, cereal, marine and dairy protein science, and the learnings from these areas will be applied within the project.

With its trans-disciplinary approach, combining the expertise of leaders in a number of research institutes with significant industry support, this project will support Ireland’s goal to become a global leader in responsible food production and address the critical unmet needs of the end users, most notably the agri-food industry and food consumers. 


The U-Protein project has received funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under the Food Institutional Research Measure (grant number 2019PROG702).


Muireann Egan

Communications Officer

Teagasc Food Research Centre,
Moorepark, Co. Cork.


Sinéad Fitzsimons

U-Protein Project Manager

Teagasc Food Research Centre,
Moorepark, Co. Cork.


Mark Fenelon

Head of Teagasc Food Research

Teagasc Food Research Centre,
Moorepark, Co. Cork.