Local food entrepreneurs have received a further boost, following the unveiling of the Castlerea Food Hub last November, with the recent announcement of a new GMIT project.
GMIT has been awarded EU funding for a unique project called “Creating Entrepreneurs in Food (CEF)’, which aims to build food innovation and entrepreneurship-focused rural communities and economies in the west, and develop a model for Ireland and Europe.
The funding of just over €220,000, from the European Erasmus+ Key Action 2 Fund, has been allocated to Dr Lisa Ryan and Maria McDonagh of the GMIT Department of Natural Sciences, School of Science & Computing, who are leading the EU project under the rural development strand of the Europe 2020 growth strategy.
They will lead a consortium of academic and industry expertise in achieving the project targets, strengthening its international links and boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in rural communities. It will examine current food supply chains in Europe in a bid to identify innovative methods and help deliver short food supply process (farm to folk), cutting costs for the small producer and fostering collaboration with other like-minded food entrepreneurs.
The main outputs of the project will include a training course for food producers aimed at providing ‘soft’ skills that will empower them to keep control of their business, promote innovation, create employment and move up the value chain.
The second output will be the development of an online web portal that will stimulate the flow and exchange of knowledge and best practice between education and enterprises allowing food producers to connect and collaborate with one another.
CEF is a two-year project commencing in shortly (January 2017) during which time GMIT academics and leading food entrepreneurs will establish and build relationships, host a series of events, conduct surveys and pilot the training programme with food producers in Ireland and Europe. Connecting farmers, food producers, enterprise and education will be a core theme running through the project both on a national and international level.
Dr Lisa Ryan, Head of Department of Natural Sciences (GMIT), says:
“GMIT is very excited to be leading such a unique European project. With the Agri-food sector being the largest indigenous industry in Ireland, we are very well equipped with high calibre academic and industry expertise in this country to lead a project of this nature. It is a privilege for Ireland and in particular GMIT to have the opportunity to actively contribute to the development of Europe’s rural economies and to Europe2020’ growth strategy.”
GMIT will work with three European partners and local food entrepreneurs including Roscommon man Brendan Allen (Castlemine Farms and Larder 360) and Ronan Byrne (‘The Friendly Farmer’) who will be involved in all aspects of the project. Based in the United Kingdom, Brussels and Poland, the European partner organisations will provide access to the greater European target group enabling an in depth evaluation of the current situation and will stimulate knowledge transfer on an international level. “We look forward to bringing an Irish perspective on rural entrepreneurship to Europe”, adds Dr. Ryan.
Further information concerning the project will be available on GMIT’s website, www.gmit.ie and social media channels, Twitter and Facebook over the coming weeks.