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Minister Smith Urges Agri-Food Industry To Think Green, Act Smart, and Embrace Innovation in all its Guises

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith T.D., today urged all players along the agri-food chain to think green, act smart, and embrace innovation in all its forms. 

Speaking at the official opening of Teagasc's new Nutraceutical Facility in Ashtown, Co. Dublin, by Ireland's EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the Minister said that his Department "continues to invest heavily in institutional level research relevant to the bio-economy both indirectly, through grant-in-aid funding of Teagasc and the Marine Institute and directly, via the competitive, 'public good' funding programmes - FIRM, Stimulus, and COFORD". 

He recalled how, over the past 10 years, investment under these three competitive programmes alone had amounted to €218m leading to expertise, capability and facilities that have delivered many opportunities for the agri-food sector. He instanced how the FIRM programme has led to new functional ingredients, novel processing technologies and new products while the Stimulus and COFORD programmes were delivering benefits in terms of substantiating the green credentials of Irish food, improving cattle breeding through the use of genomic selection technologies, and providing new added value outlets for agriculture and forestry resources and waste streams including conversion into energy and bio-based materials.

The Minister congratulated Teagasc for taking the initiative to establish the new state-of-the-art Nutraceutical facility saying that when added to other state and industry investment through programmes such as the Food for Health Research Initiative, NutraMara, and Food for Health Ireland it "further strengthens Ireland's position as an internationally competitive centre for research in the rapidly growing functional foods sector".

Reminding all present of the need to get maximum value for public funds at this time, the Minister went on to say that "the challenge now is for the industry to tap into and make better use of these incentives, structures and the public research infrastructure generally in order to become a truly green, smart, and innovative driver in the future development of the bioeconomy in Ireland". Remarking on the predominance of SMEs in the agri-food sector the Minister acknowledged that "many often don't have the wherewithal to invest in R&D themselves and, therefore, need to actively seek out and absorb cutting edge technologies developed by Irish publicly funded research institutions". 

The Minister recalled how various recent Government reports and policy documents had acknowledged the central role of the agri-food sector and its potential to contribute to economic renewal. Referring to the various growth targets set for the sector in the Food Harvest 2020 Report drawn up by the industry which he launched earlier in the year, the Minister said that "Thinking Green involves taking advantage of our natural, welfare-friendly, sustainable production practices and linking them to the positive image we enjoy as a green, unspoilt tourist destination in the minds of consumers" while Acting Smart "means developing new and more effective business relationships and models, using lean manufacturing techniques, increasing skill levels, and being innovative along every step of the supply chain. It also involves, as is evident from today's event, robust, collaborative and inter-disciplinary research dedicated to finding new and innovative uses for our raw materials".

The Minister concluded by saying that he firmly believed "that given our abundance of natural bio-resources, our well earned reputation, our export focus, and our entrepreneurial culture and ethos, the future can indeed be bright if we think green, act smart, and fully embrace innovation in all its guises."

Date Released: 19 November 2010