A cutting-edge laboratory investigating a new technology with the ability to reduce harmful chemicals and antibiotics in the food chain – and lessen the threat of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) – has been launched at Queen’s University Belfast.
The Centre for Plasma in Agri-Food (AgriPlas for short) has been officially opened at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s. AgriPlas is the first of its kind in Europe; its focus will not only be pioneering research into cold plasma – partially or wholly ionised gases that have antimicrobial properties – but also its application, with the potential to transform farming and commercial food production.
The dedicated research facility will work closely with the Northern Ireland, UK and European agri-food industry, as well as other stakeholders such as farmers, on a number of projects to explore the use of plasma technology in, for example, veterinary treatments, prolonging shelf life of agri-food products and farm biosecurity. It’s thought that scaled-down plasma technology could be available for use outside of laboratories, eg. by food producers or farmers, in as little as three years’ time.
Cold plasma research, particularly in the agri-food space, is still a relatively young field and although it is being increasingly seen as a potentially revolutionary ‘wonder technology’, it’s believed this is the first time a European university will focus research on agri-food, agriculture and veterinary scenarios.