The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D., today welcomed the publication of the Bioeconomy Implementation Group’s First Progress Report to Government highlighting the work undertaken over the last year addressing the actions and challenges as set out in the National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy.
The bioeconomy covers all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources (animals, plants, micro-organisms and derived biomass, including organic waste). It links primary production undertaken in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture with a range of economic and industrial sectors to produce food, feed, bio-based products, energy and services. It, therefore, provides an unique opportunity to secure increased value from production and processing, especially through utilisation of by-products and waste streams, so as to optimise the return to all actors along the value chain. It also provides important opportunities for replacing fossil fuel-based products with products generated from the natural environment such as food, feed, biobased plastics, natural chemicals and materials. To be successful, the bioeconomy needs to have sustainability and circularity at its heart.
The Minister said, “The contribution from Agriculture, Forestry & Marine and the Food Sector to the national bioeconomy ambition is significant. It includes not only a commitment to the development of innovative practices, processes and value chains that can improve the efficiency and re-use of resources in agriculture, forestry and marine production systems as demonstrated in the small-scale farmer-led green biorefinery activity with Carbery and Barryroe Co-Op. It also includes the integration of bioprocessing and bio-refining to produce food and feed products as well as replacing high embedded carbon products such as concrete, steel, plastics, chemicals and energy with biobased alternatives and produce new products.”
The recommendations in this report dovetail with the All of Government Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown and actions identified previously in the National Planning Framework, Project Ireland 2040, Future Jobs Ireland, and the development of the Regional Spatial & Economic Strategies. Bioeconomy development will also be a key consideration in the Department’s CAP and EMFF consultations as well as its agri-food sector development strategy to 2030.
Minister Creed concluded, “Renewing and strengthening our agri-food sector through adoption, scaling up and commercialisation of small, pilot and large-scale biorefining has the potential to lead to the creation of high-quality green jobs in rural, coastal and urban areas. For example, Glanbia are currently scaling-up a first-of-a-kind in the world integrated biorefinery in Lisheen, Co. Tipperary for the conversion of dairy side streams to high-value bio-based chemicals, minerals for human nutrition and bio-based fertiliser. Additionally, in Lough Egish, Co. Monaghan, BioMarine Ingredients have built Europe’s first pilot marine biorefinery to convert blue whiting into high-value proteins, oil and calcium. With the agri-food sector actively seeking to implement innovation with positive climate and environmental outcomes and facing considerable uncertainties due to the prospect of Brexit, growing the bioeconomy represents an opportunity for the agri-food sector to diversify and reduce the risks confronting it.”