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Launch of Teagasc Technology Foresight Project

Pictured discussing the new Teagasc Technology Foresight Project were (L -R); Prof. Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director; Tom Moran, chairman of the Steering Committee; Simon Coveney, TD Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Dr Lance O Brien, Teagasc Head of Strategy and International Relations.

Teagasc has launched a new Technology Foresight Project, which will focus on the identification of the key technologies that have the potential over the next 20 years or so to underpin competitiveness, sustainability and growth in the Irish agri-food sector. This study will be of major importance in prompting Teagasc to look beyond the standard 3-5 year timeframe, to think about what is possible in the long term and to develop strategies, policies and roadmaps for its research and innovation programmes.

The overall objective is to provide a comprehensive and well-researched source of evidence for policy decisions relating to Teagasc’s future science and technology programmes. It will aim to assist the organisation in identifying the new areas of technology which it should prioritise for the long-term and the resulting implications for investment in new skills, equipment and infrastructure. It will also bring together a wide diversity of people from different backgrounds to explore new ideas and to achieve consensus on the long-term challenges confronting the Irish agri-food and bioeconomy sector and its future technology needs.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, welcome the initiative and stated that “continuing advances in science, technology and innovation will be central drivers of a profitable and sustainable agri-food sector. Agri-food can continue to look forward to further growth and prosperity under the new Agri-Food 2025 Strategy being developed by an industry-led committee. It is critical that Teagasc continues to develop the new technologies which will be needed to underpin this growth."

A Steering Committee comprising leading national and international experts is responsible for guiding the project. The first meeting took place in Teagasc Ashtown today, Friday, 15 May. The chairman of the Steering Committee, Tom Moran, former Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, stated that “It is recognised that the opportunities and risks associated with new technologies must be fully evaluated on a case-by-case basis against the specific problem or issue the technologies can address. It will be vital for our scientists to fully communicate the outcomes of these evaluations to consumers, as, amongst other socio-economic considerations, consumer attitudes will be critical in determining the ultimate application of these technologies in agri-food”.

Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc, stated that “Teagasc has a responsibility to begin looking now at the many new technologies which are now beginning to impact on other sectors of the global economy. Advances in areas such as Big Data, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology, amongst others, are already altering existing economic systems and business models. It is conceivable that such technologies could ultimately impact almost every sector of the economy, and they have the potential to bring about massive change at every stage in the food chain. Ireland cannot ignore these developments, and the Teagasc Foresight Project will be vital in this regard.