The tour began in Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, where an Irish summer breakfast was provided. Mr. Aidan Cotter, CEO of Bord Bia, outlined the sustainability credentials of the Irish food industry. Mr. Cotter explained the journey that Ireland is taking to become a world leader in sustainably-produced food and drink. He spoke about the recently launched Origin Green Sustainability Development Programme and the commitment of Irish food and drink producers to sustainability.
Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc, outlined the role of science-based innovation in developing the Irish food sector. He outlined how Teagasc, through its research, development and innovation activities, is committed to supporting food companies to develop innovative value-added products and new processing technologies, improve competitiveness and assure safety and quality. The talks were followed by a series of on-site demonstrations under the research theme ‘Science for Food Innovation from Ireland’s High Quality Natural Resources’.
University College Dublin, one of Europe’s leading research-intensive universities, was the next destination. UCD demonstrated, through a series of short presentations, their ongoing research into ‘the intersection of food and health’. Professor Mike Gibney gave a brief overview of human nutrition research at UCD, specifically in the areas of personalised nutrition and public health nutrition. Dr. Lorraine Brennan discussed how a national Nutrition Phenotype Database is being established with detailed dietary, biochemical, genetic, nutrigenomic and physical activity data recorded from three cohorts. This database will be the first of its kind and will yield a wealth of information including possibilities for biomarker discovery and investigating gene/environmental interactions. Dr. Nessa Noronha discussed how functional foods, as part of the Food for Health Ireland programme, are being developed for target audiences such as the elderly. Finally, a talk was given on behalf of Professor Patrick Wall on consumer attitudes to new developments in food and the role of social media in informing the consumer. Following the talks, a series of interactive workshops were on display also outlining the practical applications of the research.
Dublin Institute of Technology was attended next, to experience the ‘past, present and future of food’ with showcases and tastings of current Irish food products. Talks were given on the school of culinary arts and food technology, the history of Irish food and the history of the potato in Ireland. Again, a series of exhibitions were on display, showcasing research carried out in the Dublin Institute of Technology. Finally, Bord Bia hosted an evening dinner in the famous dining hall in Trinity College Dublin to experience the best of Irish seasonal products from Bord Bia Quality Assured suppliers.
The food industry in Ireland is a critical industry for the Irish economy and sustainability is the key to future successes. The event highlighted the intrinsic relationship between Food and Science, honed in on the importance of collaboration and outlined the vast array of opportunities this industry can provide.