FutureMilk Research Centre will deliver innovative scientific solutions enabling the South East agriculture community realise its ambitious growth targets and TSSG’s involvement will result in 18 new positions in Waterford 

Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) has welcomed the Government’s funding announcement for the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) FutureMilk Research Centre.

Researchers at TSSG have been instrumental in the developing the field of precision agriculture in Ireland and working with farmers and agriculturalists to provide ICT solutions to the agricultural sector. The principal investigator for the centre is TSSG Acting Research Director, Sasitharan Balasubramaniam.

Through FutureMilk, TSSG researchers will collaborate with Agri-Food and ICT research institutes and leading Irish/multinational food and ICT companies.

Prof Willie Donnelly, President of WIT has been one of the leaders in developing Ireland’s competencies in precision agriculture. Welcoming the funding announcement, he said: “FutureMilk will deliver innovative scientific solutions enabling the South East agriculture community realise its ambitious growth targets and develop new milk based products in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The FutureMilk Centre will be hosted by Teagasc, in partnership with the Tyndall National Institute, Ireland’s national microelectronics institute, the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) at Waterford Institute of Technology and the Insight Centre for Data Analytics (at UCD, NUIG, DCU).

The centre director, Dr Donagh Berry from Teagasc, said: “The FutureMilk Centre aims to be an agent of growth for the Irish dairy industry by being a world leader in fundamental and translational research for precision pasture-based dairying. The vision of the FutureMilk Centre is to be a world leader in the Agri-Food technology sector through innovation and enhanced sustainability across the dairy supply chain, positively impacting the environment, animal well-being and the health of consumers. This will be achieved by greatly improving the soil-to-gut supply chain connectivity; thereby improving resource efficiency, better meeting consumers’ expectations and improving profitability and resilience.

Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) Director, Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, who is the Principal Investigator on this ambitious project was delighted TSSG was part of the proposal and could make significant contributions in the area of ICT and its impact on the sector, he said “This opportunity will allow us to deliver solutions specifically for the Agri-Food Technology sector, and to look at new emerging communication paradigms that will truly transform Smart Agriculture.

This includes looking at novel communication systems created from molecular biology systems that can be synthetically engineered for sensing and communication, all the way to advanced Artificial Intelligence Algorithms that can monitor animal behaviour.

“By integrating these novel ideas for research in Smart Agriculture, will make Ireland address the issue of feeding the future population as we face more uncertain environmental conditions (e.g., climate change),” he added.

The FutureMilk principal investigator team are supported by 22 funded investigators, 43 academic collaborators and 46 industry collaborators. FutureMilk will hire 30 post-doctoral researchers and 54 postgraduate students. For this, TSSG will be hiring six postdoctoral research fellows, 11 PhD students, and a site manager.

John Halligan T.D., Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, said: “Investment in human capital is critical if we are to maintain and build Ireland’s competitiveness. I am delighted that researchers at Waterford-based TSSG will play an integral role in the new FutureMilk Research Centre, helping to drive the discovery and development of innovative technologies to support the production of dairy products. This investment will significantly contribute to the key national objective of keeping Irish agriculture globally competitive, as well meeting Brexit-related challenges and helping stimulate rural development and employment. Skills are the key differentiator in attracting and retaining Foreign Direct Investment as well as building Research, Development and Innovation capacity in our indigenous enterprises. Well done to TSSG for this well-deserved recognition as a global centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation.” 

Netlabs building on WIT's West Campus which is home to TSSG.