Karina Pierce grew up on a sheep and suckler farm in Co Wicklow. She lives in Roundwood with her husband Denis and two children, Niamh and Conor. She has a PhD in swine nutrition, is a former lecturer in ag science at UCD, and is currently senior development advisor in the Food Division of Enterprise Ireland.
In 2019 she was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship which saw her travel the world to gather insights into her Nuffield report which explored how robust research could help future-proof the the Irish agri-food sector.
Speaking about her report, she said: “The Irish agri-food industry faces many challenges, such as meeting our environmental commitments, climate change, growing anti-agriculture sentiment and addressing consumer concerns around animal welfare.
“My report sought to evaluate if the future needs of Irelands agri-food sector are being addressed through current research. The main findings of the study showed that the
research, development and innovation (RD&I) system has a key role to play in providing solutions to transform the food system into more sustainable, resilient, responsible, diverse, competitive and inclusive pathways.
“However, the Irish agri-food sector, when benchmarked against its global competitors, underperforms in terms of RD&I expenditure. Given the complexity of the issues facing the sector, a major focus on fostering a collaborative environment around key industry issues is critical as strong partnerships between industry, policy-makers and research providers will be required to ensure that science is translated into strong business, policy and management decisions.
“There is a need for a national agri-food research and innovation policy to give direction to strategy and investment decision-making by funders, research and development providers, industry and Government departments.”
The main findings of her report were:
Karina said: “While communication is often lower down priority list, it is vital to the success of any strategy and this communication needs to be focussed both towards those working within the agri-food industry and also to the wider public.
From a primary production perspective, continued investment in extension services is essential to communicate research findings with farmers
“Communication would be easier if there was a single sectoral RD&I strategy document for the industry with a communication strategy built around that. A lead Department, committee or head of agri food R&I to co-ordinate this would also improve communications efforts. From a primary production perspective, continued investment in extension services is essential to communicate research findings with farmers and ensure that research does not move too far ahead of practice.”
The Nuffield Ireland Lunch and learn series runs all this week featuring a 10-minute presentation at 1.30pm each day outlining the key findings of each scholar's Nuffield report. To register visit www.nuffield.ie/lunchandlearn.