Researchers picked to investigate novel ingredients from marine life

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Functional foods, Nutrition

A consortium of research institutions that will help Ireland tap
into its natural resources and identify novel marine food
ingredients and products has been announced.

In April more than €5m was earmarked for the Marine Functional Food Research Initiative (MFFRI) and research institutes in Ireland were invited to submit applications to carry out the work. Now a group made up of the University Colleges Cork and Dublin, NUI Galway, University of Limerick, and the University of Ulster Coleraine has been put together. It will be led by the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Teagasc). These universities were picked after submitting an application earlier this year and are said to have an expertise in various areas, covering knowledge of marine algae and ability to carry out human intervention studies. The money will help MFFRI to concentrate on three areas of research - the use of fish processing waste, the sustainable exploitation of underutilised species of fish and seaweed, and the development of value-added products from aquaculture. The consortium will provide additional research staff including two principal investigators at professorial level; seven post-doctoral posts and seven PhD places. Two extra positions will also be recruited for, including a Professor of Marine Natural Product Chemistry a Professor of Marine Functional Foods Biochemistry. Marine functional foods ​ These themes were identified as research priorities earlier this year as part of the country's Sea Change​ strategy, which aims to shift the sector away from the traditional food-harvest view and drive it into new market-led opportunities including functional foods. Sea Change - A Marine Knowledge, Research, and Innovation Strategy 2007-2013​, represents a total investment of €365m by the government's National Development Plan, EU research grants and exchequer funding. Ireland boasts a marine resource of 220m acres. With the recently negotiated increase in Irish fish quotas it projects a total value of €0.25bn in seafish being landed around the country in 2007. The lion's share of the €5.2m came from the National Development Plan. Dr Peter Heffernan, chief executive of the Marine Institute, said: "This initiative recognises the potential of marine functional foods-which give health benefits as well as tasty eating. "Our aim is to create a strong interdisciplinary research team, capable of exploring marine animals and plants as a source of materials for use in functional foods." ​ The group said the move will allow Ireland to become "players"​ in what is already a $74 billion worldwide market for functional foods. Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan, said: "Both the Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (DAFF) see the need for new ways of thinking and diversification into new markets in the seafood sector. "Ireland has both the natural resources and the expertise to become significant contributors in the new and expanding market for marine functional foods and food ingredients. This is why our two organisations have agreed to co-fund significant research in this new and exciting area." ​ Teagasc also has a program underway looking into how discarded parts of fruit and vegetables can be turned into useful by-products and nutraceuticals.

Related topics: Polyphenols

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