The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, The Canadian Genomics Enterprise, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, recently organized an international forum on agri-food research in Beltsville, Maryland, USA. Several leading universities from Canada and the USA with strong capabilities in agri-food research also participated in the event.
The forum was hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at Beltsville and was supported by InvestNI, the Northern Ireland Bureau and Irish Embassy in Washington DC.
The overall aim of the Forum was to bring together the leading agri-food research scientists and funding bodies from Ireland, north and south, Canada and the USA in order to combine efforts in tackling global challenges in agri-food production that are of major economic, environmental and societal importance to each region. The goal was to identify research programmes of common interest which could be advanced collaboratively.
Through a series of workshops, over 50 leading international experts examined key agri-food production challenges in their respective regions, particularly in respect of production efficiency (plant and animal), animal diseases, plant/crop health, sustainability and food security and safety. Several areas were identified in which solutions to these challenges could be more cost effectively and efficiently developed if existing national research programmes were better aligned to avoid duplication of effort. Participants committed to developing a number of collaborative research projects under the principle that solutions to common international challenges can be found more rapidly and cost effectively if the four participating nations commit to working together.
Forum Chairman and AFBI Director Dr Sinclair Mayne was delighted with the outcome of the Forum. He said, “This inaugural Forum between four international research partners has been a major success, and there is already anticipation about meeting up again in Belfast next year when we will review what has been achieved on the collaborative research projects identified at this event. We have also committed to continue to work together to identify new opportunities for collaboration on other research projects relating to the major global challenge of sustainable intensification of food production.”
Dr Reno Pontarollo of Canadian Genome Enterprise, said at the conclusion of the conference “The Canadian delegation came to the Forum prepared, but with modest hopes for significant progress. However, the timing was right, and with potential partnerships already in livestock production, animal vaccine testing, honey bee genetics and other areas, we have greatly exceeded expectations.”
Dr. Frank O’Mara, leader of the Teagasc delegation was equally optimistic. “We are very confident that new thematic research partnerships will result from the Forum to the benefit of all countries involved and beyond”.
The US Beltsville Agricultural Research Centre Director, Dr. Steven Shafer, added that “There are frequent opportunities for scientists to meet with colleagues from around the world to talk about potential collaborations in research, but it’s often difficult to guess whether real outcomes will develop. In this case, however, the scientists from AFBI, Teagasc, Genome Canada, and the US who met here exceeded expectations. We are extremely optimistic that the Forum will lead to solid ideas for international research partnerships having impact for the agricultural sector and the public at large”.
The Agri-food and Biosciences Institute is Northern Ireland’s leading scientific research organization. AFBI carries out high-quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DARD and other government departments, public bodies and commercial companies. More info: www.afbini.gov.uk
Teagasc is Ireland’s national agriculture and food development authority. More info www.teagasc.ie
Genome Canada invest and manage large-scale research projects on behalf of the Canadian Government. More info: www.genomecanada.ca
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada [AAFC] is the department of the government of Canada with responsibility for policies governing agriculture, production, farming income, research and development, inspection, and the regulation of animals and plants. It also has responsibilities regarding rural development.
Notes to editors:
AFBI carries out high-quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DARD and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.
AFBI's Vision is “Scientific excellence in Northern Ireland … serving the world”.
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