"Ireland has become internationally recognised for research in food and in the marine areas. We have built an infrastructure – both physical and human – which has allowed us to collaborate and also compete with some of the best in the world in our field," President Michael D Higgins told delegates at the NutraMara Conference in Dublin last week.
He pointed to Ireland's capacity to transform marine resources into new food related products by maximising the creative potential of Ireland's research community in working with industry.
"I would like to congratulate the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Marine Institute for their leadership in developing this collaboration: this strong multidisciplinary research team, of 30 researchers from seven research institutions, is working together for the benefit of the research community, the marine and food industry and of course for the consumer. The programme is indicative of what can happen when two historically separate research groups – one in marine and one in food – work together towards a common goal, " said President Higgins.
The theme of research enabling innovation as introduced by the President was a core theme throughout the NutraMara Conference. The Conference attracted speakers and participants from as far away as Canada and Australia; all of whom were eager to contribute to the debate on the sustainable exploitation of marine living resources as functional food ingredients.
Speakers from the NutraMara consortium highlighted the need to develop a deeper understanding of Ireland's marine resource, particularly the extent of Ireland's seaweed stock; the potential of aquaculture as opposed to harvesting wild resources and the need to develop precise profiles of bioactive materials found in marine organisms. International contributions supported the recent focus of NutraMara on marine micro-algae and the potential of these micro-organisms as sources of high value food ingredients.
"New exciting results were presented in the development of bioactive functional food ingredients from marine plants and fish by-products, including blood pressure lowering agents, anticancer materials and anti-inflammatory agents with a variety of potential therapeutic and health promoting properties, " according to Professor Colin Barrow, a leading marine natural products chemist from Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.
"It is clear Ireland has created a large research and commercialisation network in the marine functional food area that aims to harness this potential," added Professor Barrow.
The Conference provided an excellent platform on which to build further national and international collaboration and opened up the potential to broaden the impact of NutraMara across Ireland's life sciences sector.
Further details of the NutraMara conference can be obtained from Director of NutraMara Declan Troy at Teagasc (declan [dot] troy [at] teagasc [dot] ie).