Devenish launches major European scientific research project on health from ‘Soil to Society’

Devenish Research Development and Innovation kicks-off a €1.4m EC Horizon 2020 academic research project.

Devenish Research, Development and Innovation (Devenish RDI) launched a major four-year scientific research project at its Global Innovation Centre in Dowth, County Meath earlier this month. 

The project, known as ‘HeartLand’ (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Rural development: Training network for LAND management), was granted €1.4m funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme to progress scientific agricultural research into the link between soil, animal, human and environmental health at Devenish’s internationally-recognised research farm, the Devenish Lands at Dowth, County Meath. 

The Irish-based research arm of international agri nutrition company Devenish Group, Devenish RDI will use the funding to coordinate the scientific aspects of the project in partnership with Wageningen University and Research (WUR), University College Dublin (UCD), University of Gloucestershire, Bord Bia and the European Food Information Council.

A Marie Skłodowska Curie European Industrial Doctorate (EID) programme, HeartLand will train a new generation of five creative, entrepreneurial and innovative PhD graduates in the multidisciplinary topic of soil-to-society. These PhD students based at the Devenish Lands at Dowth, WUR and UCD’s Lyons Farm Estate will build a farm management system that has a positive impact on the environment, and human health. 

Dr Jean Kennedy, Head of Research Resources at Devenish, who led the project proposal said: “Through expert academic research, the HeartLand project will seek to design, implement and evaluate a soil, sward, and grazing farm management system that maximises a positive impact on the environment, improves the nutritional and sensory quality of meat, and consequently improves human health.”

“We hope to upscale the findings of this research to help the livestock sector develop more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable production and land management systems.”

Adriaan Palm, Ambassador of the Netherlands in Ireland, attended the launch event. He said: “HeartLand will connect industry with the latest academic research from Dutch, Irish and UK Universities. It is comprised of a powerful consortium of representatives from both business and academia. This multinational cooperation is essential to address current global challenges. We need solutions to pertinent consumer concerns about the environmental and nutritional impact of farming decisions. I want to wish this project and the researchers involved every success.”

Mairead McGuinness, Vice President of the European Parliament, supported the launch event by video link from Brussels. In her address, she said: “The work HeartLand is carrying out will have a huge ripple effect, not only in Ireland and Europe but right across the globe because the challenges of food security and environmental sustainability, and matching that with human health needs, require that we take this cross collaboration approach. I look forward to seeing the results of the project and wish everyone involved all the best.” 

Richard Kennedy, Devenish Group CEO, added: “Devenish is committed to developing science-based solutions that will benefit the entire supply chain by bringing nutrient rich food to as many people as possible. A major challenge to the livestock farming industry is to develop production systems that simultaneously enhance environmental sustainability and support a healthy diet.”

“This is a knowledge-intensive process and we are keen to nurture the next generation of talent to drive this work. HeartLand is a major project for Devenish and one which we are proud to collaborate on with UCD, Wageningen University and our other partners.”

Geraldine Canny, Head of the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office said: “This European Industrial Doctorate Programme will provide high quality, multidisciplinary training with the objective of generating highly employable graduates. I would like to wish Dr. Jean Kennedy and Devenish every success for this project.”

Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council, Wayne Harding said: “I would like to welcome Devenish and the Horizon 2020 HeartLand project to Co. Meath. It is fantastic to have The Devenish Lands at Dowth, a recognised Lighthouse Farm on our doorstep, pioneering in sustainable and healthy beef and lamb production.”

Prof. Rogier Schulte of Wageningen University and Research elaborated on the international networks that HeartLand connects to: “The Lands at Dowth is among the first of our international Lighthouse Farming Systems: outstanding exemplars of farms that are ahead of their time and already ready for the challenges of 2050. HeartLand promises to deliver the scientific evidence base for future ruminant farm configurations that contribute positively to healthy soils, healthy farms and healthy diets.”

Associate Prof. Tommy Boland from University College Dublin said: “Ireland has a proud tradition and strong reputation for producing high quality agri-food products and are recognised internationally for the green image of Irish agriculture. However, the global agri-food industry is faced with a myriad of challenges and this collaboration between Devenish, UCD, Wageningen University and others presents an exciting opportunity to drive the future development of pasture-based livestock production systems that meet environmental and consumer demands.”

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