Last week, I attended the launch of a new partnership between New Zealand co-operative Fonterra and APC Microbiome in University College Cork.

APC Microbiome is a branch of UCC that is jointly owned by UCC (75%) and Teagasc (25%). Established over 20 years ago, the initiative is a Science Foundation Ireland centre focused on understanding the power of gut bacteria.

Long story short, the APC scientists isolate and identify different strains of bacteria and then commercial companies come and bring the product to market following clinical trials.

Speaking at the event last week, Fonterra’s head of research development Mark Malone suggested Fonterra will be looking to identify what he called one new ‘hero’ strain of bacteria per year. Now that they will be working side-by-side with world leading scientists at APC, he is confident that can happen. Fonterra obviously see the value in investing in facilities and employees in Ireland in this space backed by Enterprise Ireland.

It shows the clear strategic change by Fonterra that once was on a global commodity investment journey in China, South America etc.

Now it’s investing in developing unique bacteria in a 100ml bottle that might be tailored to improve the mental or gut health of Chinese or US consumers.

I find it intriguing why international heavyweights such as Fonterra, Dupont and Nestlé come to the other side of the world to work side-by-side with APC scientists, but very few or maybe none of the Irish dairy companies see this science as part of their future.