Teagasc has published nine new roadmaps looking forward to 2027 to guide the agricultural sector over the coming years.

The roadmaps cover the areas of environment, food, forestry, horticulture, tillage, pigs, sheep, beef and dairy.

These include market and policy issues; potential shape and size of the sectors in 2027; environmental and land use implications; and research, advisory and education actions.

The roadmaps are a “best estimate projection” of where each sector is headed based on the current known mix of economic, social and policy drivers, according to Paul Maher, assistant director of Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc.

Speaking on a webinar this morning, Tuesday, December 8, to outline the detail of the nine Teagasc roadmaps, head of the Teagasc Rural Economy and Development Programme Kevin Hanrahan said:

“Overall, the agri-food sector is well positioned to supply high-quality food to adjacent and global markets from a sound environmental platform.

“While an ageing workforce population is a significant concern, producers have shown that they are resilient and can be responsive to market and policy signals where they are timely and consistent.”

Meanwhile, John Spink, head of programme with responsibility for Environment, Forestry, Horticulture and Tillage, outlined the important environmental targets that will be a significant driver across all of the food production systems, saying:

There are challenges in all sectors, such as, the need to reduce: emissions to air and water; and pesticide and fertiliser use; whilst maintaining financially viable businesses.

“The SignPost farms will be a major initiative to mainstream sustainable farm businesses across all sectors.

“There are also opportunities driven by an increased interest in plant-based foods. Opportunities will emerge for the forestry, horticulture and tillage sectors in the coming years.”

Pat Dillon, head of programme with responsibility for dairy, beef, sheep and pigs, set out how the animal production systems will engage in new technologies such as precision breeding and grassland management, improved fertiliser efficiency and use of protected urea as well as low emissions slurry spreading to reduce the overall impact of the systems on the environment.

Mark Fenelon, head of the Teagasc Food Programme, outlined the significant investment made in recent years to modernise the food processing sector and improve its innovative capacity.

Consumers are increasingly looking for evidence of the implementation of sustainability measures in the food chain. Irish food is produced by thousands of farmers, and agri-food companies and was valued at €13.7 billion, with exports to 180 markets worldwide, Fenelon noted.

In summary, Teagasc director, Prof. Gerry Boyle, acknowledged the challenge in developing roadmaps during a time of rapid policy change.

He looked forward to Teagasc “providing a meaningful role in the delivery of the targets set out in the roadmaps across each of the sectors from now to 2027”.