Farmers and businesses from across the agri-industry gathered at Gurteen College in Co. Tipperary today for the Energy and Farm Diversification Show. The event, which aims to explore the potential of on-farm energy production and diversification, was opened with a welcome address by Gurteen College principal Jon Parry, followed by a speech from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.
In his remarks, Minister McConalogue highlighted the important role that on-farm energy production and farm diversification can play in helping the agriculture sector meet its climate targets, particularly in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The minister’s speech set the tone for the day, which was further discussed in an opening panel discussion moderated by broadcaster and former minister for agriculture Ivan Yates.
The panel discussion featured Stan Lalor, director of knowledge transfer at Teagasc; Tim Cullinan, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); Mark Christal, divisional manager for food and sustainability at Enterprise Ireland; and Prof. Aoife Foley, professor at the University of Manchester and Queen’s University Belfast. The panel covered a wide range of topics related to on-farm changes in renewable energy and other forms of diversification, addressing both the challenges and opportunities in these areas.
Throughout the day, several panel discussions took place concurrently at various locations around the college campus. Three pavilions were erected at Gurteen College, each devoted to a different area or sector. The Energy pavilion covered topics such as anaerobic digestion (AD), energy policy, solar energy, biomass, and community energy. The Farm Diversification pavilion focused on food business start-ups and tourism diversification. Lastly, the Land Use Change and Sustainability pavilion explored organics, forestry, bio-economy, and agri-tech.
The Energy and Farm Diversification Show also featured exhibition halls where suppliers and experts in energy and diversification showcased their products and services. These exhibitors were able to provide necessary information and guidance to farmers, landowners, and businesses considering venturing into a new business venture.
The discussions throughout the day were organized into several tracks, covering different aspects of energy in agriculture, farm diversification, and smart climate land use. Track 1 focused on energy in agriculture, including biomethane and anaerobic digestion, solar energy, biomass, and energy communities. Track 2 delved into farm diversification, including agri-tourism, entrepreneurship, artisan food, and alternative diversification. Lastly, Track 3 explored smart climate land use, with a focus on organics, regenerative farming, and climate-smart land use alternatives.
In addition to the panel discussions, the event also featured several demonstrations. These included an on-farm anaerobic digester, a solar PV installation and energy management showcase, an exhibition on energy crops and biomass, a demonstration on maximizing organic fertilizers, and a farm diversification demonstration.
The Energy and Farm Diversification Show provided a platform for industry professionals, farmers, and businesses to come together and explore the potential of on-farm energy production and diversification. With the agriculture sector facing increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact, events like these are crucial in promoting sustainable practices and finding innovative solutions to meet climate targets.