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Health, Environment, Agriculture, Rural development: Training network for LAND management

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HEARTLAND (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Rural development: Training network for LAND management)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2021-02-28

Livestock farming is increasingly in the spotlight because of its impacts on the environment and human health. Global livestock production has been associated with land use change, methane emissions, climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss. At the same time, consumption of livestock proteins exceeds total human protein requirements for a healthy diet in most European Member States. The challenge is therefore to develop livestock production systems that enhance sustainability and support a healthy diet. Heartland (Health, Environment, Agriculture and Rural development: Training on LAND management) will connect one of the most notable industry initiatives (at the Lands at Dowth of Devenish Nutrition (DN) and Devenish Nutrition UK (DNUK)) to scientific knowledge on sustainable and healthy food production (generated at Wageningen University and Research (WUR), University College Dublin (UCD), University of Gloucestershire). The impact of this EID programme will be maximised by working closely with experts in communication and dissemination at the European Food Information Council and Bord Bia. The bold proposition underpinning Heartland is that sustainability and health are inextricably linked, all the way “from soil to society”: Sustainable food production = healthy farms producing healthy food for healthy people living in a healthy world. In other words, a programme that expands the concept of environmentally and economically sustainable farm management to include healthy food for a healthy society as a potential business opportunity in terms of adding value and a unique selling point to otherwise ‘commodity’ foods. The overall objective of this project is to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative PhD graduates to investigate how economically and environmentally sustainable ruminant livestock products of enhanced nutritional value can be developed through a pasture-based production system while complementing soil, sward, animal, environment and ultimately human health.
Heartland will build on state-of-the-art by uncovering the scientific connection between soil, sward, ruminant production and meat quality for the improvement of human and environmental health. The ESRs will develop a Heartland Management Plan – a redesign of beef and lamb production systems from soil-to-society. This redesign will be based on the output from a series of experiments of agricultural, soil, sward, animal and environmental science, a large farm systems experiment at Dowth and support from the established FarmDESIGN Software developed by WU. The ESRs will assess the societal drivers and barriers for adoption of this re-designed farming system which will be taken into account in the design process to maximise its wider applicability. The ESRs will assess these drivers and barriers in the context of the “Big Five” soil functions (listed below) that must be met by the sustainable management of soil and land: 1) production of food, feed and fibre; 2) provision of habitats for both functional and intrinsic biodiversity; 3) carbon sequestration; 4) regulation and provision of clean water; 5) the provision and cycling of nutrients. Farming practices that maximise synergies between these five functionswill be assessed. Ultimately, the contribution of the Heartland beef and lamb compared to ‘conventionally’ reared beef and lamb, to the micronutrient and fatty acid intake will be estimated. The subsequent health effects will then be calculated. Heartland will also build on the framework of Functional Land Management.

Output include:
• PhD graduates with industry experience
• a new sustainable farm management system, optimising the 5 soil functions and focus on improving environmental and human health
• 10 peer-reviewed publications
• dissemination, networking and outreach
• updated FarmDESIGN software and extension of the Functional Land Management framework
• contribution to EU policy on sustainable and multifunctional farming systems through use of the updated software
• solutions that tap into the area of sustainable development which have economic, social and environmental dimensions and are aligned with several 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals
The collaborations involving industry and university in Heartland will ensure a good vehicle for enhancing knowledge transfer, intersectoral mobility and mutual understanding (agreed research questions relevant to industry). The structured PhD programmes will enable DN to take part in researchers’ education and training insofar as it will expose them to environments which will allow candidates to acquire skills relevant to the business world in addition to those relevant to the academic world. The collaborative aim to make sure that all ESRs graduate with PhD thesis with constructive input from universities, industry and the doctoral candidate. Industry participation on the SC is what effectively reflects the specific nature of the collaborative doctoral project. The industry based secondments will be important contributions to the education of the ESRs who wish to gain insight into the business world (e.g. from conversations at the water-cooler to commercial and customer meetings). The ESRs will gain an understanding of the role of research beyond the academic world and hence they are better prepared for employment in industry and for establishing better links with it if employed elsewhere. DN regard this collaborative EID as a genuine part of developing stronger relations with WU, UCD and UoG.
Strengthening European innovation capacity: To support the knowledge triangle between research, innovation and education – networking, communication, outreach and dissemination are pivotal to the success of this project. Heartland will be an example of very relevant European higher education in terms of the impact on society and economics. Furthermore, Europe's human capital base in R&D will be strengthened with a new generation of entrepreneurial and highly-skilled ESRs. This work programme will improve Europe's competitiveness and growth in the agri-food sector because it will valorise sustainable and nutritious food of animal origin with a point of difference. Heartland will be the first project providing proof-of-concept of the science based - industrial redesigned sustainable farming system, making Europe a world-class performer in this area of science. This research framework can then be replicated and used as a model to include other farming systems. The Heartland consortium will be in an excellent position to build on the results and secure additional funding and resources from both industry, H2020 and national funding streams. Heartland addresses Societal Challenges 1 and 2 (Health and Food). Heartland has the potential to alleviate the pressure on health care systems by the promotion of health through improved quality food. Heartland offers a solution to this challenge by meeting consumers’ preference for tasty meat that is produced in an economically and environmentally sustainable way. The ESRs will contribute to strengthen the innovation capacity of Europe. The ESRs will focus on advancing the economic productivity of farming, both in design and operationally. The deliverables from the ESR projects will tap into the area of sustainable development which has economic, social and environmental dimensions all of which are built into Heartland.