Irish innovation in agritech has been recognised by the European Commission with a €22 million Horizon 2020 award for a project led by global nutrition group Glanbia.
The funding has been awarded for a project called AgriChemWhey. Glanbia will lead the project alongside Irish researchers from University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, and partners from five EU member states.
The innovative AgriChemWhey project will see low-value byproducts of the dairy production process converted into lactic acid, used in the production of higher value goods. These include biodegradable plastics, bio-based fertilisers, and minerals for human nutrition.
Speaking at the launch, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said, “AgriChemWhey is a highly innovative research project which, if successful, will serve as a flagship for Europe’s growing bio-economy, contributing towards a more resource efficient European dairy sector.
“It has enormous potential for replication in other areas across Europe, while also providing a boost to jobs and growth across Europe’s rural economy,” he added.
Ireland’s 200-year agritech heritage
The agritech sector is crucial to the Irish economy, boasting a 200-year heritage in the state. Ireland is also known to have the highest standard of agriculture education in Europe.
While Ireland may be a relatively small agriculture producer globally, innovative projects like AgriChemWhey highlight the sector’s ambition and expertise.
Glanbia’s excellence in agritech is recognised across the world. The company transformed its business model by channelling protein removed from whey, once regarded as a waste product, into a high-value offering for the performance nutrition market.
With Ireland ranked second in the world in the research of animal and dairy products, its competitive advantage in agritech continues to attract significant levels of research funding. Since the programme began in 2014, Ireland has secured more than €513m through the Horizon 2020 programme.
The six-year EU Horizon 2020 programme promotes excellence in research and innovation.
Dr Bernd Reichert, head of SMEs in the Horizon 2020 unit, celebrated Ireland’s Horizon 2020 success in December 2017. He said that Irish companies are “punching above their weight” when it comes to securing European innovation grants and can consider themselves to be in the “Champions League” of European innovation.
The strength of innovations such as AgriChemWhey in Ireland are producing excellent economic results. The country ranks first in the EU for extracting economic value from research and Irish agritech manufacturers are particularly skilled at producing efficiency-enhancing, sustainable solutions.
The success of projects like AgriChemWhey confirm the positions of Glanbia and Ireland as leaders in sustainable agricultural processing.