Dundalk IT students targeting agriculture emissions in EU programme

18 Feb 2022

Image: © jordi/Stock.adobe.com

A DkIT team has entered the second stage of the Start for Future programme with their idea to reduce livestock methane levels using seaweed.

A team of students from Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) have passed the first stage of the Start for Future programme, coordinated by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

This programme is a pre-accelerator initiative organised by European universities, where students and staff submit business ideas in areas such as manufacturing, health, sustainable food, the circular economy and sustainable urban mobility.

Future Human

The DkIT team is the only team from Ireland that successfully passed the first stage of this initiative. Students Linda Strahan, Sylvester Phelan, Hugh O’Connell and Cian Poyntz are from DkIT’s diploma in food and agri-business programme.

Their team has now progressed to the second stage of Start for Future with their sustainability-focused project called AsparaGas-B-gone. The idea involves reducing methane levels in livestock with the use of a red seaweed called asparagopsis armata.

DkIT students Linda Strahan, Sylvester Phelan, Cian Poyntz and Hugh O’Connell

From left: DkIT students Linda Strahan, Sylvester Phelan, Cian Poyntz and Hugh O’Connell. Image: DkIT

In the second stage of the programme, they will develop their concept over eight weeks with the help of incubator consultants, industry experts and EIT partners. They will pitch their idea at the end of next month.

The students received positive feedback in a survey among farmers and the Irish Farmers’ Association, while the research they have conducted to date has made them “highly motivated” to pursue this idea further, according to DkIT.

These students are currently farming or from a farming background, which has made them very aware of the problems that are facing Irish agriculture now and in the future.

“The Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland confirmed that Irish agriculture is a big contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, totalling 37.1pc in 2020,” DkIT said. “Irish agriculture needs to adapt to new technologies and designs to be able to maintain the current and future levels of farming.”

Dr Breda Brennan, head of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Animal Health at DkIT, said: “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.”

The Start for Future programme is part of the EIT’s Tandem initiative, a European project with seven higher education institutions including DkIT, which aims to support capacity building in entrepreneurship and innovation within the higher education sector.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com