Teagasc leading development of sustainable European livestock production systems

STEP UP is a four year research project funded under Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship funding programme for research and innovation.
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The project, led by Teagasc, aims to support the development of more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable European livestock production systems (ELPS).

The project was launched this week by the Irish Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for research and innovation, Martin Heydon TD.

A consortium of 16 partner organisations from across Europe gathered at the Teagasc Ashtown Conference Centre, Dublin on Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th February 2024, to officially kick-off the project.

Left to right, Declan Troy, assistant director of research, Teagasc, Martin Heydon, TD, Minister of State with responsibility for research and development, farm safety, and new market development; David Kenny, head of the animal and bioscience research department and Áine Macken-Walsh, research officer, Teagasc. Picture: SubmittedLeft to right, Declan Troy, assistant director of research, Teagasc, Martin Heydon, TD, Minister of State with responsibility for research and development, farm safety, and new market development; David Kenny, head of the animal and bioscience research department and Áine Macken-Walsh, research officer, Teagasc. Picture: Submitted
Left to right, Declan Troy, assistant director of research, Teagasc, Martin Heydon, TD, Minister of State with responsibility for research and development, farm safety, and new market development; David Kenny, head of the animal and bioscience research department and Áine Macken-Walsh, research officer, Teagasc. Picture: Submitted

A core objective of STEP UP is to generate clear, unambiguous and quantitative information to support greater sustainability, viability and resilience of environmentally compatible European Livestock Production Systems.

Through state-of-the-art research methodologies and thorough and effective stakeholder engagement, STEP UP will deliver a platform of measures to support European policy makers with science-based evidence on the impacts and externalities of ELPS, as part of the food and wider ecosystem.

Launching the project, Minister Heydon remarked: “With 90% of Irish farms having some form of livestock farming activity, this area plays a vital socio-economic role in rural Ireland and this is also the case in many EU countries. Irish livestock farming is embracing a wide range of practices to improve sustainability, from breeding more sustainable animals to using less fertiliser, which also produces lower emissions, as well as incorporating multi-species swards and clover into grassland, amongst other areas.

“Research and innovation have driven the development of these and for this reason; I am delighted to be launching this new, pan-European research project ‘STEP-UP’. Through the involvement of 16 partners across 10 countries, I am confident that the research will provide valuable insights and data for the benefit of European livestock production and I wish the team, led by Professor David Kenny of Teagasc Grange, well in their work over the coming four years.”

On the occasion of the launch of the STEP UP project, Professor Frank O’Mara, director of Teagasc and current president of the EU Animal Task Force said: “Teagasc is centrally involved in supporting the ongoing development of the economic and environmental viability of the livestock sector, both nationally and internationally. Taking the leadership role in the STEP UP project further demonstrates our commitment to strengthening the sustainability of both Irish and European livestock production systems.”

Professor David Kenny, head of animal and bioscience research in Teagasc and STEP UP coordinator, said: “In order to address the many challenges facing ELPS, the overall objective of STEP UP is to provide policy makers with a robust evidence base on the impacts and externalities and, in particular, their monetised values, of livestock farming as part of the food system and wider ecosystem.”

STEP UP will forge a clear path forward in the co-creation of ELPS suited for future societal needs. This starts with mapping data gaps, a step that is crucial for improving the reliability of all further analyses.

This will be followed by establishing current Innovative Livestock Production Systems which requires documenting and understanding novel and developing practices in livestock management.

By indicating and measuring the impact for livestock systems with a focus on quantifying the consequences of these systems, STEP UP intends to establish a holistic methodology for quantifying impacts.

The use of novel data modelling approaches will enhance the accuracy of predictive models enabling forecast scenarios including monetizing impacts so that transition pathways for more sustainable and diverse ELPS can be identified.

Evidence-based STEP UP knowledge of ELPS as part of the food system and wider ecosystem will be disseminated using the multi-actor approach.

Finally, STEP UP will provide a unique and warranted platform to support the development of informed and objective policy measures to optimise the central role of livestock in meeting the nutritional and societal needs of the European and global population.

STEP UP’s collaborative approach brings together reputable partners from all over Europe - TEAGASC, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, INRAE, Wageningen University and Research, IFIP - Institut du porc, The European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders, The Spanish National Research Council, Foodscale Hub, Institute De L'elevage, FeedInov CoLab, Germany’s Federal Office for Agriculture and Food, The Poznań University of Life Sciences, Thuenen, IST-ID, Institut Technique de l'Aviculture and Queen’s University Belfast.

The project will actively involve farmers, data providers, research institutions, and other industry experts, policymakers, the European Commission, and other key agri-food industry actors.

The STEP UP project has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and innovation programme.

All the information is available on the project's website, as well as on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.

It is funded by the European Commission through its Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme with co-funding from UK Research and Innovation.

STEP UP is a Research Innovation Action funded by the European Union through the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101136785.

The project has also received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee.

The STEP UP project commenced on the 1st January 2024 and will run for four years with an overall budget of €4.7 million.

The consortium includes 16 partner organisations from 10 European countries.