Students from the Dundalk Institute of Technology’s Diploma in Food and Agri-Business are a winning team in the first stage of the TANDEM project ‘Start for Future’, a programme coordinated by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The students from DkIT are the only team from Ireland to progress successfully to the next stage of this innovative project. Students Linda Strahan, Sylvester Phelan, Hugh O'Connell and Cian Poyntz represented one of a number of teams from their programme along with teams from across programmes in the School of Business and Humanities who entered the competition under the guidance of their lecturer Angela Hamouda. The Tandem project is a European wide project with seven HEI partners (including DkIT) which aims to support capacity building in Entrepreneurship and Innovation within the Higher Education sector. The ‘Start for Future’ programme is an initiative of international universities of EU Excel and Tandem Plus. It is open to students, staff or existing teams who have a business idea in manufacturing, circular economy or sustainable urban mobility.
This winning group of students from Part Time Agri Food Science Y2 have progressed to the second stage of this project with their sustainable idea AsparaGas-B-gone. Irish farmers and agriculture are facing major challenges due to climate change and the need to adapt to a more sustainable method of farming to protect our environment for both present and future generations. This DkIT team of students are currently farming or from a farming background and working in the Agri Food Sector, and are very aware of the problems that are facing Irish agriculture now and in the future. The Irish carbon budget announced on 26th October 2021 stated that Irish agriculture must reduce its carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland confirmed that Irish agriculture is a big contributor of Greenhouse Gas emissions totalling 37.1% in 2020. The greenhouse gases that livestock produce that affect the environment the most are methane and nitrous oxide. Irish agriculture needs to adapt to new technologies and designs to be able to maintain the current and future levels of farming. The DkIT team of students decided to pursue the idea of reducing methane levels in livestock with the use of a red seaweed called asparagopsis armata. They called their seaweed product “AsparaGas-B-gone”.
The team carried out primary research by sending a survey to a wide selection of farmers involved in different sectors of livestock farming and also interviewed the previous national chairman of the dairy committee of the Irish Farmers Association. They received very positive and encouraging feedback with regards to the idea. Based on the optimistic response they received from fellow farmers and the Irish Farmers Association and the significant research they have carried out to date on this seaweed product they are highly motivated to pursue this idea further.
Getting to the second stage of the TANDEM project ‘Start for Future’ is a wonderful prospect for the DkIT students to take their concept and develop it to the next phase. They will embark on an 8 week programme starting on 29th January where the students will accelerate their idea with the help of coaching from incubator consultants, industry and EIT experts with 20 international partners. Students will pitch their ideas on 25th March 2022.
Head of Department of Agriculture, Food and Animal Health, Dr. Breda Brennan said: ‘I am delighted to hear of this success and congratulate the students and their lecturer Angela Hamouda. This is a highly successful programme which provides opportunities for graduates to upskill for new or existing roles within the Food Industry and entrepreneurship is a very important element of the programme. We have succeeded in getting Springboard funding for this programme for several intakes and will be applying for funding again this year. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the great work of the School’s Head of Part-time Programmes, Dr. Geraldine O’ Connor and the Programme, Director Paul Murphy.
The Diploma in Food and Agri-Business is based in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Animal Health in the School of Health and Science. It is a level 7 part-time programme which runs over three semesters (including an industry placement) and is funded by the HEA Springboard initiative. https://www.dkit.ie/courses/school-of-health-and-science/agriculture-food-and-animal-health/diploma-in-food-and-agri-business.html