Sustainable food production is essential if we wish to have the same quality and quantity of produce available to us in the future. Ireland has embedded an expansion of 50% increase in output from the dairy sector within its national development policy (Harvest 2020). In quantitative terms this amounts to a 2.75 billion litre increase in milk production volumes which has prompted the dairy industry to initiate programmes for increased plant processing capacities. However, full consideration must be given to sustainable management of the inevitable increase in wastewater production such an expansion will bring. In fact, consideration needs also be given to sustainable milk production, and especially sourcing of sustainable animal feeds to replace high protein feeds imported from across the globe. Consistently, a central element of the Harvest 2020 strategy is the promotion of sustainable/green technology for an Irish agri-food sector that is “innovative, efficient, and a global leader in environmentally sustainable production”. The EPA funded NEWTRIENTS (http://newtrients.ucc.ie/) project aims to deliver innovation and efficiency through value added dairy wastewater resource recovery through demonstration of a circular economy approach to dairy processing industry wastewater and thus develop a paradigm shift from wastewater treatment to closed loop reuse of valuable components present in the effluent with environmental and economic benefits, and to transform expensive and environmentally inefficient wastewater treatment processes into a source of revenue for the dairy processing industry.
Prof. Marcel Jansen