Education Vision Report
Teagasc has a unique mandate to create and impart knowledge to the Irish agri-food sector. Education and training lies at the heart of Teagasc’s mission to support science-based innovation and to underpin profitability, competitiveness and sustainability.
The Teagasc Education Vision exercise has canvassed educationalists and stakeholders both nationally and internationally to make recommendations regarding future agricultural education needs of the land sector. The Vision recommendations have been guided and informed by national, EU and international reports and policies, notably the national vision for the agri-food sector, Food Wise 2025, the EU communication The Future of Farming and Food and the Teagasc Foresight exercise, Teagasc Technology Foresight 2035.
The Teagasc Vision exercise noted that Teagasc’s existing education programme was fundamentally sound and that it had notable strengths. Research has shown a high rate of return to Teagasc education at individual farm level with a substantial multiplier effect accruing throughout the supply chain. A key strength of Teagasc’s education programme is its blend of classroom and practical instruction, combined with experiential learning on commercial host farms and land sector businesses. The Vision exercise concluded, however, that the educational needs of future generations of land sector entrants will be more challenging in terms of knowledge, skills and capability requirements.
Environment and climate change challenges mean that the ability to farm sustainably will be a key competence in the 21st century. The public good role of the land sector in maintaining and enhancing the environment will be important. A key capability will be to integrate rapid advances in farm husbandry and technologies in a manner that enhances rather than compromises environmental management and sustainability. Sustainability concepts will extend far beyond the land sector. The principle of a circular low carbon bioeconomy founded on renewable and recyclable resources will become central both nationally and globally in the coming decades.
There is a broad consensus that the land sector will be one of the key pillars of a successful bioeconomy. In addition to being food producers, farmers will have a greater role as producers of biomass for the energy, bioprocessing and pharmaceutical sectors. The bioeconomy will stimulate innovation in our agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, bio-processing, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. The shift towards a bioeconomy, coupled with the projected increase in the world population to about nine billion by 2050, will provide increased opportunities for the land sector and help underpin demand for its produce and services.
The impact of both consumer and policy trends on the food chain can also be expected to intensify. The policy emphasis on food security, safety and traceability, animal and plant health protection, anti-microbial resistance, biosecurity, health and safety, animal welfare, carbon footprints and food miles will work its way through the food chain creating new demands at farm level. Consumer attitudes and behaviour relating to lifestyle, nutrition and wellbeing and perceptions of ethical farming issues will determine food consumption and market specifications. It will be imperative that future generations of farmers can apply management and husbandry practices that will meet continually evolving food demands.
At farm level, the pressure to be efficient, competitive and business oriented will intensify. Future farmers will need to be proficient in business planning, financial management, governance and compliance. People management skills will be more important on larger farms. The next generation will need to break with traditional views and conventional wisdom to fully maximise and leverage the potential of their farm resources. An entrepreneurial mindset will be essential to fostering fresh thinking and new approaches.
Read report - Teagasc Education Vision - meeting future needs