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Duck-Feed Project

A green field surrounded by trees with a low sun giving a warm glow and long shadows

A new, sustainable source of protein for Ireland

There is a pressing need to find new sustainable sources of protein. Currently, the Irish agri-food industry largely relies on soya as a source of plant protein for use in food and feed. However, soya beans cannot be grown in Ireland, while the acreage of other pulses in Ireland is rather limited. So soya protein is imported from elsewhere. While soya is a great protein source, there are negative aspects in relying on this crop. Apart from potential GMO contamination, and a volatile international market, the use of soya is considered to have a negative impact on the climate due to production practices. Therefore, the Duck-Feed project is developing and alternative, sustainable, source of protein for Ireland. 


green duckweed plants floating on dark water. There are small raindrops on the duckweed leaves.Internationally there is strong interest in the development of duckweed as a source of plant protein, especially as a replacement of soya in animal feeds. Duckweeds (Lemnaceae species) are small floating freshwater plants. They grow rapidly and have a high protein content, with a composition of proteins (amino acid profile) similar to soya. These plants can grow on wastewater, using the phosphorus and nitrogen in the water for growth and thereby cleaning the water. In that context they are ideally suited to be part of a circular economy process.

Duckweed in Ireland

Several duckweed (Lemnaceae) species are native to Ireland. They grow floating on still or slowly flowing fresh water. While they are flowering plants, duckweeds naturally propagate mostly without flowering by vegetative budding. Large scale cultivation of duckweed (1.2 hectare) was first demonstrated in combination with freshwater aquaculture at Mt. Lucas, Co. Offaly, where duckweed was successfully grown on aquaculture wastewater. The duckweed biomass produced here was then used to develop large-scale protein extraction technology.

The Duck-Feed Project

The Duck-Feed Project is a multidisciplinary project, bringing together expert research groups from these organisations in Ireland:

  • University College Cork
  • Teagasc
  • Technological University Dublin
  • Devenish Nutrition Ltd

 The research aims to solve key bottlenecks in the production, processing, use, and public acceptance of duckweed as a locally produced source of protein for Irish farming. It aims to develop the expertise and experience to successfully facilitate a roll-out of duckweed cultivation in Ireland in close interaction with the agricultural industry. Key objectives are:

  • to develop improved, small scale outdoor cultivation systems,
  • to develop duckweed growth on farm waste streams,
  • to optimise protein extraction technology,
  • to assess feed quality,
  • to assess economic and environmental viability,
  • to assess public acceptance of duckweed as a local protein source.

For further information on the project please browse other pages our website:

Find information on the people involved at the Duck-Feed Team page. If you want to know how you can be involved with the project, check out information for Stakeholders, or find us at upcoming Events.

If you want to have an informal chat about the project, we are happy for you to Contact us.

Plants for Sustainability

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences | University College Cork | Distillery Fields | North Mall | Cork T23 TK30 | Ireland,