PrecisionDairy raises the stakes for The Irish Agricultural Sector
ICT has a major role to play in enabling Irish agriculture to meet its full economic potential as well as safeguarding the environment and guaranteeing food security. Teagasc, Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunication Software and Systems Group (TSSG) were awarded SFI funding in conjunction with a commercial Shannon based company (True North Mapping (TNM)) in a new joint venture initiative between Teagasc and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) within the research theme known as ‘Future Agri-Food’.
The research project was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD at the National Ploughing Championships in county Laois.
Through the incorporation of precision technologies, technology platforms and computational biology, the economic and environmental sustainability of pasture based production systems will be increased. The project is being coordinated by Dr. Laurence Shalloo, Teagasc in collaboration with Dr. William Donnelly of TSSG. Teagasc will be focusing on the development, interpretation and integration of precision technologies in pasture base systems. TSSG will focus on the development of sensors and biosensors to capture data at farm level, using ICT to develop communication platforms to transfer the data to a central database. TNM will focus on the development of technologies for automated pasture measurement and sensors for monitoring animal activity.
The project will use ICT to develop communication platforms to transfer the sensor data to a central database and enrich it with external databases (both animal and grassland) in order to create "big data". A key outcome will be to provide the end user with real time solutions to both animal and pasture based management issues.
Prof. Willie Donnelly (TSSG) noted “ICT technologies are changing the shape of the agriculture industry across the globe providing improvements in the quality of production of crops, the health of livestock and the quality of life for farmers.” Ireland through aligning its expertise in ICT and Agriculture is in a unique position to be the global center for smart agriculture, creating major employment and economic impact.
Teagasc Director Prof. Gerry Boyle said: “The aim of the joint initiative between Teagasc and SFI is to link Teagasc scientists in the food and agriculture disciplines with scientists from other disciplines, such as ICT and sensors in order to strengthen innovation in the agri-food sector. The convergence of this broad range of disciplines will help underpin the profitability, competitiveness and sustainability targets set out in the Department of Agriculture’s “Food Harvest 2020” strategy. The projects fit within the remit of Sustainable Food Production and Processing, one of the 14 areas identified by the National Research Prioritisation Exercise”.
In welcoming the announcement, Dr. Frank O’Mara, Director of Research in Teagasc said: “ As well as the significant collaborations formed in this project, this themed call has acted as a catalyst, leading to many new collaborations between Teagasc researchers and researchers from other disciplines, not traditionally associated with agriculture and food. We look forward to these exciting collaborations bearing fruit for the Irish agri-food sector over the coming years”.
Prof. Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “SFI is working in partnership with Teagasc to support excellent and impactful research in the agri-food sector. PrecisionDairy is the type of innovative e-agriculture research project that is essential to maintaining Ireland’s status as a leader in the agri-food sector.”