I think it’s really tempting to be negative about the future, especially when you consider all that Irish industry has been through in recent years. And now, just as we are finding our feet again, along comes Brexit and all of the feelings of uncertainty and insecurity associated with it. How are we going to be affected?I actually think it is important to be upbeat in our thinking, especially when we consider the relatively healthy state of Irish horticulture.
It would be true to say that the €400m Irish horticulture sector is vital to the future stability of the Irish economy. We work in a truly diverse sector which takes in vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, flower bulbs, trees, mushrooms, protected crops, lawn turf and more.
The value of the retail fresh produce market has been valued at €1.2m p.a. by Bord Bia Horticulture Division Manager Mike Neary, with the gardening retail market valued at €631m. the commercial gardening and landscape market is a vital part of this sector. According to Food Wise 2025, the Agri Food Strategy Committee report, the future picture for the edible and amenity horticulture sectors is looking bright, with a targeted growth of €100m over the next ten years.
I could be wrong (it’s happened once or twice before) but the adoption of innovative technologies in across sub-sectors leads me to believe that Irish horticulture generally is set for a phase of sustained growth. This is an ongoing technological revolution and although it brings new challenges to us all, it also brings really great opportunities.
The Teagasc 2030 Foresight Report, which focuses on identifying key technologies to drive sector growth over the next 20 years, points to automation, advanced robotics and next-generation genomics as ways of helping transform how we work on the land. But whatever innovative technology or practices present themselves, it is up to all of us working in Irish horticulture to embrace and harness them to our benefit. Dr Noel Cawley, The Teagasc Chairman, sums it up like this:
“More knowledge is emerging year-on-year, which if properly captured, analysed and interpreted, can be utilised by Ireland’s farmers to enhance the quality of the produced. Innovative machine engineering has already removed some of the human toil from farming activities in developed countries. ICT-driven automation of remaining labour-intensive tasks is set to increase exponentially.”
So, here’s to the future, I say, whatever Brexit may or may not mean for us. Let me know what you think.