DIT researchers to work on food research projects worth over €1.4m

10 December 2012: The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, has announced grant awards of €32m for agri-food and forestry research in Ireland(*). The awards cover a broad range of research activities relating to sustainable food production and processing as well as forestry. Many of the projects funded are applied and pre-commercial in nature while there is also a heavy emphasis on research involving the modern biosciences.


DIT researchers to work on food research projects worth over €1.4m

DIT researchers in the School of Food Science & Environmental Health and the FOCAS Institute are working on three of the funded projects which aim to develop novel technologies to increase competitivity in the Irish food industry.

Dr Jesus Frias, Dr Sinead Ryan and Professor Hugh Byrne are participating in a project in collaboration with Professor David Brayden from UCD to investigate novel methods of delivery of nutraceutical ingredients. The project worth almost €478,000 (Translation of pharmaceutical drug delivery to nutraceutical delivery using in-vitro and in-vivo techniques) will focus on innovative methods of drug delivery to increase the effectiveness of peptides that are taken orally.  The team is currently recruiting two (one based in DIT and second one in UCD) postgraduate students to work on the project.  ‘Meat and milk derived peptides have recently been shown to exhibit antihypertensive effects leading to a growing commercial interest in their potential health benefits’ says Dr Frias. ‘However if you take these peptides orally then their bioavailability is limited. Our project will investigate ways to improve this oral bioavailability using drug delivery technology based in nanoparticles ’.


The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, has announced grant awards of €32m for agri-food and forestry research in Ireland

Dr Nissreen Abu-Ghannam, is collaborating with Teagasc’s Ashtown Food Research centre and UCD to develop novel non-thermal and bio-processing technologies to maximize the extraction of high value ingredients from agri-industrial by-products for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications. “Plant food processors generate a significant amount of waste that could be turned into a valuable resource if treated correctly, but to date industry-friendly, low energy sustainable techniques for recovery of these components are not available” says Dr Nissreen Abu Ghannam.   Her project will aim to develop efficient and low cost processing technologies to generate high yield bioactive ingredients that are approved by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) for their positive impact on health. Toxicity aspects of the co-extracted matrices will be evaluated in conjunction with DIT’s  FOCAS Institute. This collaborative project will receive €781,483 over a 4 year period and Nissreen will shortly be recruiting a postdoctoral researcher to join her research team.

Dr David O’Connor will also collaborate with Teagasc’s Ashtown Food Research centre on a project, valued at €162,500, designed to improve the quality of beef on sale in retail outlets (Novel pre-treatment regime to enhance the value and quality of vacuum packed retail cuts of beef).  A postgraduate student will be recruited to work on this project. ‘An advantage of current modified atmosphere packaging systems is the production of a healthy red beef colour. Unfortunately this is also accompanied by a loss of tenderness and taste and an increase in odours due to lipid oxidation’ says Dr O’Connor.’ Shelf-life is also reduced due to potential aerobic growth of spoilage microorganisms. This research project will aim to combine the advantages of vacuum packed products with the “healthy” red colour of oxygenated meat by utilising new technologies and processes’. 

At the launch the Minister reiterated his commitment to targeted research and innovation within the agri-food sector by stating "Publicly funded research will continue to play a key role in driving innovation within the bio-economy thus contributing to the growth targets outlined in the Food Harvest 2020 and ultimately making a positive contribution to the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs".

*All of these projects were awarded under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM). This has been in operation since 2000, and is the main programme for funding food research in research performing organisations in Ireland including Teagasc and the Higher Education Institutes (HEI) thereby contributing to building and maintaining a research capability that helps underpin a vibrant, competitive and innovative food manufacturing industry.

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