The theme of Nuffield Ireland's annual conference, which took place on 12 November at Castleknock Hotel, was ‘Future trends in agri-food policy – how does the sector need to respond?'
The panellists were all in agreement that in order to achieve a climate-smart, environmentally sustainable agri-food sector, private funding for research and innovation will be needed.
Karina Pierce, associate professor of dairy production in UCD and Nuffield Scholar, said that in order to see the potential from research and innovation more cohesion, collaboration and better communication is needed to "allow science to be translated into strong business, strong policy and strong management decisions".
She recently completed a report which recommended the need for a National Agri-Food Research and Innovation Policy to address the challenges facing the industry in order to give direction to strategy and investment.
"Because of the scale of investment required, private sector funding is going to need to be involved. However, this involvement can threaten the perceived independence of the research so this must be addressed,” Pierce said.
Also speaking at the conference, Declan Kelleher, former permanent representative of Ireland to the EU, said: “There is an unbalanced narrative at play involving the demonisation of Irish agriculture, which is wrong and very unfortunate.”
Highlighting about the "unfair way" in which the agri-food sector is viewed by the public, Tom Arnold, chair of the European Commission’s high level expert group, which will assess the need for an International Platform for Food Systems Science, said: “I think there has been an excessive polarisation of opinion between the agricultural world and the environmental world that is unproductive. We need to get to the point where we have a much clearer sense of a common ground and to work to a programme to achieve that."
2020 Nuffield Scholar reports
The conference also heard the findings of the reports of the five returning 2020 Nuffield Scholars. The key recommendations from each of these reports were: