Agriculture must be ‘smarter, leaner and cleaner’

14-09-2016 | |
Photo: Roel Dijkstra
Photo: Roel Dijkstra

According to EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan, the agricultural sector ‘must become smarter, leaner and cleaner’ in the future.

Hogan was addressing 1500 delegates at the huge 67th European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) conference held in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

He admitted targets set by the European Union had been missed and that agricultural research had become a low priority.

More and better knowledge

The Commissioner said: “Concerns over commodity prices, food security and climate change have emphasised how vital it is to invest in agricultural research and innovation. We know that the sector must become smarter, leaner and cleaner. To meet these challenges head-on, we will require more knowledge, and better knowledge. Knowledge that enables us to build a more competitive and sustainable European primary production; knowledge to protect the environment and develop new value chains in vibrant rural areas; knowledge to cater for the varied needs of our hugely diverse agri-food systems and territories.”

Innovation key in rural development

Hogan further addresses that, although we know we need this knowledge, it is fair to say that, as a result of the various crises which confronted the European Union in the last decade, we fell behind on our targets, and allowed agricultural research to become a lower priority. “However, there is a resurgent conviction at European level to change this fact, and we have taken strong steps to back innovation in the sector in recent years. First and foremost, we doubled our investment in the field under Horizon 2020, the EU programme for research and innovation. And secondly, we took the crucial decision to make knowledge and innovation a central plank of our rural development policy. This means that every EU Member State and eligible region can prioritise innovation and research in the delivery of their rural development funding.”

EU research after Brexit

Michelle McIlveen, minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland opened the conference and said: “Northern Ireland is the perfect setting for this huge conference as we have a rich history of agri food innovations. One of my key priorities is to enable our agri-food industry to increase sustainability. There are a number of challenges facing the agri-food industry in the future and this includes how to feed a growing population that is estimated to reach nine billion people by 2050. We have to produce food as sustainability as possible and the adoption of new research and development is a key driver of this. There is a huge importance in keeping our country free from notifiable disease to increase our overall health status. The eradication of TB is one of the bigger challenges we face. And, I must mention Brexit. The UK Chancellor has announced a commitment to funding EU research in the future so we will benefit from that,” she concluded.

Chris McCullough Freelance multi-media journalist