Waterford is set to be one of nine regional clusters across the EU that will act as centres of agritech innovation as part of a new €20m project called SmartAgriHubs.
Launched by the EU commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Phil Hogan, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) will act as the coordinator for Ireland and the UK.
The eventual aim is that through each of the nine regional clusters, a pan-European network of digital innovation hubs and centres of competence in all 28 European member states can be expanded to allow farmers, advisers and agritech SMES to engage with research centres and research-active higher-education institutions.
As part of the project, 80 new solutions will be introduced into the market, with €6m set aside for open calls during the lifetime of the project.
As a regional coordinator, WIT, through its Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) research centre, will be the central point of contact for those who will be invested in the project.
One of those expected to be working with WIT is agri-food research group Teagasc, which will lead two flagship experiments in advanced agritech.
“The sector has great opportunity with the rising global demand for high-quality food and nutrition, but also faces many challenges such as profitability, climate change, water quality, and must also compete with other sectors for the people talent needed for the sector,” said Dr Frank O’Mara, director of research at Teagasc.
“Agritech has an important role to play in realising the opportunities while overcoming the challenges.”
Meanwhile, WIT’s president and founder of TSSG, Prof Willie Donnelly, welcomed the news by saying: “The designation of WIT as a regional cluster lead is significant for Ireland. It puts us at the centre of agritech in Europe.
“We look forward to working in consultation with them on tech solutions available both locally and across the EU.”
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