The Irish Hub is a collaboration of multidisciplinary experts in Agriculture, Forestry, side-stream valorization, innovation management, technology commercialization and enterprise development. Institute of Technology Tralee is providing expertise in side-stream valorization, enterprise development and commercialization. Teagasc is the National center for Agricultural and Forestry research and provides Agricultural and Forestry Advisory services. The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and the Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association (IFPPA) play a key industry support role for the agriculture and forestry sectors, and collectively these organizations have an extensive national network of over 20,000 stakeholders and practitioners in the Forestry and Agriculture sectors. The Hub Team works in close collaboration with a steering committee which includes Maeve Henchion (Teagasc), Kevin O’Connor (UCD) and Tony Quinn (DAFM).Key personnel at the Hub Include
Institute of Technology Tralee is a university level institution in Tralee, Ireland. Located in a peripheral agricultural region, the ITT is a centre of excellence in agricultural education. The institute has a community of 120 researchers engaged predominantly in applied research developing solutions for enterprises regionally and nationally with involvement on knowledge transfer initiatives with over 220 companies. The Institute has a number of research and development centres on campus including Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre (Shannon ABC) and the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (CEED). The institute will serve as the central hub representative for Ireland giving valuable input for workshop organization, networking, training content development, as well as mentoring and coaching in the business development process. ITT Brings expertise in bioeconomy, biorefining and valorisation techniques as well as enterprise development. ITT is the Work Package 4 leader for AGRIFORVALOR focusing on new business models.
Teagasc is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to agriculture and the food industry. Teagasc is a client-based organisation employing 1,100 staff at 55 locations throughout Ireland.Teagasc's Forestry Development Department provides advice, training and research on farm forestry and related matters. Teagasc brings experience in managing agricultural and forestry resources and sidestreams. They also bring experience in bioenergy production from agricultural and forestry biomass. AGRIFORVALOR activities include; feedback on RDI and innovations selected in Work Package 1, support to ITT on workshop development and promotion, input into selection of case studies for Ireland and into development of the regional needs analysis for the Irish network, also involved in dissemination and support.
Ibec is the largest business representation organization in Ireland. It represents the interests of 7,500 companies and organizations, of all sizes and sectors. The Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association (IFFPA), is the branch of IBEC with special representation for the forestry and forest-based business sector in Ireland. The Irish forestry and forest products sector comprises the growing, harvesting and processing of forest products. In AGRIFORVALOR, IBEC is representing IFFPA and COILLTE, the Irish Forest Organization and supports the establishing of networks, promoting workshops, input to detect best practices, feedback on case studies, know-how and innovation transfer (WP2-4), participating to site missions (WP3) as well as dissemination activities.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) is a national organization representing the interests of all sectors of farming in Ireland. The organization has 946 branches and represents over 88,000 members. Along with a large stakeholder base the IFA provides expertise in grain production, agricultural side-streams and renewable energy technologies including torrefaction and hydrothermal carbonization (HTC). The IFA supports the development of the AGRIFORVALOR network, workshop development and promotion, input to detect best practices, feedback on case studies, know-how and innovation transfer as well as dissemination.
With 4.5 million hectares or approximately 65% of land used for agricultural purposes, Ireland places second in the list of EU countries with the highest percentage of land devoted to agriculture. Approximately 80% of agricultural land in Ireland is devoted to pasture, hay, and grass silage reflecting the dominance of livestock and dairy production in the Irish agricultural context. A further 11% is dedicated to rough grazing, while 9% is used for crop, fruit, and horticulture production. With such a strong agricultural base, it’s no surprise that over 300,000 people are employed directly or indirectly in the agri-food sector in Ireland.
Indicative land use map of Ireland (O’Sullivan et al., 2014)
Currently just over 10% of the total land area of Ireland is devoted to forestry, with 731,650 ha divided between state (54%) and private ownership. This is much lower than the EU average of 38%, however, private sector investment is expected to double current levels of forestry to 7.87 million cubic metres from the current 3.95 million by 2035. Conifers account for 69%, broadleaves 17% and mixed forests 14% of the stocked forest area. Sitka spruce is the predominant species. 3,353 hectares of Bioenergy crops have been established (2,414 ha miscanthus and 939 ha willow). Forestry directly employs about 12,000 people in Ireland.
Despite significant research, there are currently no biorefineries operational in Ireland. However, forestry and agricultural residues do play a significant role in our renewable energy share.
In 2014 solid biomass contributed a 29.8% share or 304ktoe of renewable energy. Solid biomass covers organic, non-fossil material of biological origin which may be used as fuel for heat production or electricity generation. It is primarily wood, wood wastes (firewood, wood chips, barks, sawdust, shavings, chips, black liquor etc.) and other solid wastes (straw, oat hulls, nut shells, tallow, meat and bone meal etc.). Most of the solid biomass used in Ireland is for thermal energy purposes only. In electricity generation biomass is primarily used in co-firing with peat in existing power plants, with the government setting a 30% target for biomass co-firing in all peat-fired stations by 2015. A small amount is also used in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants. Currently about 10MWe of Biomass CHP are operational (i.e. Balcas, Graingers Sawmill, Munster Joinery), however further installations are planned.
Liquid biofuels contributed 11% towards Ireland’s renewable energy total in 2014 (this amounts to 112kToe). Like other EU states, biodiesel is the most prevalent biofuel in Ireland. It accounted for just under 70% of the biofuel placed on the market in 2014. Used Cooking Oil, which receives two BOS certificates per litre, is the most common feedstock for biodiesel and accounted for 62% of all Irish biodiesel.
Currently there are only 7 Biogas plants operating in Ireland mainly in the south and south-east of the country. This compares with 26 in Northern Ireland and over 200 in the UK. Feedstocks include pig slurry, cow slurry, grass silage, ABP, food waste and sewage sludge etc. In 2014 biogas made a 1.3% contribution to Ireland’s renewable energy share or 13kToe.
Aside from residues already harvested (some of which could be further valorized using the cascade principle), Ireland does have additional underutilized and undervalued side-streams.
An estimated 1.3 million tonnes per annum straw is produced from the cereal sector mainly used in animal bedding and composting. This straw contains valuable sugars which could be fermented to biofuels or platform chemicals. Approximately 150,000 tonnes of spent grains is produced from the brewing industry with the cider industry producing over 3,000 tonnes per annum apple pomace. Animal by-products amounting to 550,000 tonnes per annum (150,000 Meat and bone meal) is exported, disposed of or used in pet food and leather production. Manure and poultry litters, mainly landspread, represent another significant resource which has potential for generating greater value. Large amounts of residues are also produced from the dairy industry.
Just over 1 million tonnes of sawmill residues are produced in Ireland annually. Woodchips represent the largest proportion of these residues, primarily used in panel board mills. Sawdust, with applications in panel board mills as well as energy production, and bark, with energy and horticultural applications, make up other considerable sawmill residues. Significant amounts of brash, stump wood and thinning residues can also be harnessed for valorization.