An exciting new era in farming and food production is anticipated
- leading to a doubling in the value of the sector to €40
billion by 2030.
A vision of the agri-food sector playing a wider role in
a broader knowledge-based bio-economy is one of the central
themes of a new Teagasc foresight report just published.
The report - 'Teagasc Foresight 2030' - was presented
at the Teagasc 2030 Foresight conference in Dublin Castle
today on Friday, 30 May 2008. The sector is facing change
at an increasing pace - driven by issues such as energy supply
and security, commodity price trends, climate change and market
and consumer changes. The impact of these drivers of change
have been evaluated and studied over an 18-month period as
part of the foresight process.
Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle said - "Agriculture
is on the cusp of profound change. There are immense challenges
and opportunities, but we can look with confidence to a good
future in farming. An internationally competitive Irish dairy
industry - exploiting the natural advantage that grass provides
- is set for substantial expansion as the EU milk quota system
He added - "We anticipate a period of post-peak oil
- when industries switch from fossil fuels with a need to
derive 'green chemicals' from plants as an alternative
to petroleum-based products. The opportunities to find alternative
sustainable fuels from plants will provide a challenge for
research and exciting opportunities for those involved in
the agri-food industry."
The keynote address at the conference was delivered by Dr
Gale Buchanan, from the United States Department of Agriculture.
He told delegates that applying science and education to agriculture
has improved human health and environmental quality. Science
and education have also improved human nutrition, safer food,
improved animal health, better soil management, improved use
of fertilizer, enhanced varieties of crops, advanced control
of insects, diseases and weeds and superior methods of harvesting,
storing, transporting farm products and many other contributions.
Dr Buchanan said - "Investment in agricultural research
and development is one of the prime drivers of growth in agricultural
productivity. Productivity studies worldwide indicate that
the rates of return to investment in agricultural R&D; are
high in developed as well as developing countries."
He continued - "If we are going to be able to meet the
world's future needs for food, feed, fibre and fuel, we will
need all the science and technology tools available."
Dr Buchanan told delegates that the agricultural sciences
are being tasked with developing technology to enable the
sustainable production of biofuels for transportation - along
with providing for the food, feed and fibre needs of a growing
The US speaker warned that water availability and quality
is an important challenge for agriculture. "In parts
of the world, depleted groundwater reserves, degraded water
quality and adverse climatic conditions are reducing the quality
and quantity of freshwater" - he concluded.
Professor Gerry Boyle finished saying - "Teagasc's role
is to provide science-based innovation support - requiring
partnership, leadership and accountability. Teagasc is adapting
and ready for change. A number of critical initial steps have
already been taken, including the establishment of bioscience
research centres to ensure that science technology and innovation
are at the heart of the development of the agri-food sector."