DIT researchers drive innovation in food sector

DIT researchers were awarded seven grants totalling €1.4 million in a recent round of funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Professor John D Kelleher, DIT, giving a keynote talk on the future of Artificial Intelligence to a packed house at the European Open Data Science Conference 2017

DIT researchers were awarded seven grants totalling €1.4 million in a recent round of funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The collaborative projects are working to find real-world solutions in a range of areas including food sustainability, soil quality and health.

Professor Paula Bourke is leading a team of researchers from DIT, UCD and Teagasc to investigate one of the most commonly reported bacteria associated with food borne disease, Campylobacter, which often develops in chicken. The team is working closely with poultry sector stakeholders across the island of Ireland to develop high-spec sensors for Campylobacter detection and new decontamination technologies for poultry processing based on cold plasma and light, improving both food safety and shelf-life. 

Professor Yuliya Semenova is developing an optical fiber probe to assess the authenticity and quality of alcoholic beverages. The probe, which consists of an array of micron-sized optical sensors mimicking human taste buds, will be capable of quickly and accurately recognising alcoholic beverages by their origin, brand, blend and age. The long-term objective is to facilitate quality control and to help identify counterfeit products in the beverage industry.

Pre-hypertension has recently been identified as a stage in the development of high blood pressure. Professor Jesus Frias is developing peptide formulations which could be used as the basis for food supplements for pre-hypertensive patients. The supplements may have the potential to reduce, or complement, the use of pharmaceuticals to treat high blood pressure. Professor Frias also received funding to collaborate on a project led by Teagasc exploring if the food pathway may be significant in infection by the pathogen, Clostridium difficile, a common hospital superbug. 

Professor Nissreen Abu-Ghannam will collaborate on a project, led by UCD, future-proofing Irish livestock sustainability. Professor John Kearney received funding to collaborate on a national survey of food consumption by teens, led by UCD, providing data on teenager’s food choices, as well as their attitudes and behaviours around body image. Dr Carl Sullivan will work with Teagasc to develop strategies to explore novel techniques for monitoring soil quality. 

The awards were announced this summer by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, saying, “The 23 projects being funded by my Department will make a significant contribution to the future sustainability, innovation and competitiveness of the Irish agri-food sector.”

Photo Credit: Maxwells Photography