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Feeding innovation

Feeding innovation

 

On a 20-acre site on the outskirts of Navan, Co Meath, the wheels are in motion to create the Boyne Valley Food Hub, a major project that aims to be to food “what Silicon Valley is to technology” within the next 10 years.

Driven by Meath Enterprise in conjunction with Meath County Council and in partnership with several key stakeholders, the Boyne Valley Food Hub will seek to accelerate innovation and research through collaborative partnerships with a view to developing scalable, sustainable and profitable food and agri businesses with high growth and export potential.

The site, which is owned by Meath County Council, is located close to the M3 motorway, 40 minutes from Dublin Airport and 45 minutes from Dublin Port.

“We are surrounded by eight of the country’s leading universities and a labour force of 910,000 people all within a 45-minute radius,” says Gary O’Meara, Manager at Meath Enterprise and Project Manager of Boyne Valley Food Hub, who expects to have two or three anchor tenants confirmed within the next few months, including a food outsourcing manufacturer and an international food research and lab testing company.

The hub will be developed in four or five phases over the next 10 years to include incubation space, outsourced food production, manufacturing and packaging facilities, industrial kitchens, centralised distribution and storage, a new product development and innovation centre and a state-of-the-art research and development facility.

Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English says: “The Boyne Valley Food Hub will be like the ‘dream team’, bringing the highest talent together from academia and industry to drive change and create innovation.

“The Government wants to encourage initiatives such as this through our regional Action Plan for Jobs and I expect the Boyne Valley Food hub to be like one of the existing national research centres which can avail of funding through Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and Enterprise Ireland.”

Working in collaboration

O’Meara explains that the type of collaboration needed to make the food hub work is already happening in Co Meath, which otherwise, as a region, has all the necessary ingredients to make the food hub a success.

“We’ve got some world class companies here to support us including Alltech and Coca Cola.”

Epicom, which is breaking new ground and new international markets with its vast array of new milk powder products, is already a tenant in the enterprise centre in Navan where it employs over 100 people.

“The company is a key partner of Meath Enterprise and a strong relationship with Dublin Institute of Technology has developed as a result, with students working in the centre on real life food product development projects as part of their final year degree programmes,” notes O’Meara.

Having benchmarked the concept against other centres of excellence around the world, O’Meara found there were few so focused around food. He believes the Boyne Valley brand is already synonymous with food quality internationally and will be a strong selling point.

“University College Dublin researchers were excavating near Dowth in Co Meath and satellite photos taken recently indicate that this is the area where organised farming began over 3,500 years ago. Already the Boyne Valley brand is recognised all over the world as far as China,” he notes.

“By developing a world class infrastructure and fostering a world class culture of collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship, we create a platform for developing world class companies.

“At its very core will be to create products that people actually want and ask what does the world need and look for when it comes to food.”