Adding value to crops is the way forward for Irish tillage farmers, according to Teagasc specialists. Tillage specialist, Ciaran Collins, took part in a recent edition of the Tillage Edge podcast.
“So, growers can grow feed barley. However, if they look at the potential of producing malting barley, they are adding value to a spring crop for very little additional cost,” he said. “And the same principle holds where spring crops are concerned. It’s all about farmers seeking out non-feed-related, added-value opportunities.”
Currently, all plant proteins used within Ireland’s food processing sectors are imported. So there is a massive opportunity for Irish farmers to go down the important substitution route. “There is a tremendous opportunity for growers to exploit, particularly when one looks at the current trends in diets,” Collins continued. “We have seen a 72% global increase in plant protein sales over recent years.” Collins also pointed to the projected increase in plant-based diets, relative to animal proteins, as the world responds to the challenge of climate change.
Getting added value from protein crops will mirror the processes undertaken within the dairy sector; it’s all about extracting specific components from the starting product. “Analysing the amino acid profiles of the various protein crop options is a case in point,” Collins added. “Processing techniques will then act to concentrate the high value components within the starting crop.”
Meanwhile, it is anticipated that the recently launched VALPRO Path project will, in part, be responsible for encouraging the output of plant protein in Ireland and across Europe, more generally. It will involve the input of scientists from 10 centres of excellence across the EU; a total funding package of €9.7 million has been secured for the project.
There is now strong evidence to show that Europe’s plant-protein landscape is flawed with production systems focused heavily on the production of feedstock for direct transfer into animal sectors. This approach has been taken in an attempt to counter the EU’s over-dependency on imported feed. This means there is an absence of premium supply chains. As a consequence, farmers are missing added-value opportunities that exist within the crops they already grow across Europe.
VALPRO Path will design and deliver sustainable and competitive plant protein crop systems and value chains. The project has been developed to deliver a stronger ecosystem for plant protein production across Europe, supported with robust evidence of the social, economic, environmental and climate benefits.