MU research award to support farm sustainability

Researchers to receive €243,000 from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) National Challenge Fund
Tuesday, September 12, 2023 - 12:30

Researchers at Maynooth University have received Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funding for an innovative agriculture project to support sustainable soil health.

SFI’s National Challenge Fund has awarded €243,000 to researchers from the Departments of Biology and Electronic Engineering to advance this innovative project.

The project, DNet4SSoils, aims to improve the long-term health of soils in the context of a changing climate and support low-input agriculture, reducing farmers’ need for fertilizer.

Over the next 18 months, the MU team will work with the Irish Organic Association to create a new low-cost technology platform that will enable famers to evaluate their land in more detail than currently possible.

Biology - Conor Meade - Maynooth University
Dr Conor Meade, Department of Biology, who is leading the project, noted the need the future proof our soils in the face of climate change: “By the middle of this century Irish famers will face the dual challenge of drought due to climate change and the need to move toward low-fertilizer farming. This presents an acute pressure point for Irish agriculture. Working with the most important resource on every farm - the soil - our project aims to simplify the process of identifying ideal soil and crop matches at a local level, based on local farming expertise, and focused on building climate resilience into farm practice.”


Commenting on the ambitious goals of the project, Prof Gerard Lacey, Department of Electronic Engineering, and co-lead on the project said: “We are delighted to receive funding for our project DNet4SSoils which proposes a way to help farmers automate the soil and crop evaluation process. With the help of our partner, the Irish Organic Association, we look forward to developing a soil and crop evaluation tool that will facilitate data-driven farm-based decision making, and reduce soil management and crop selection risks.”


One of 25 teams competing in the final two National Challenges, the MU team will compete in the Future Food Systems Challenge that gives academic research teams a unique opportunity to contribute to Ireland’s efforts in creating sustainable, productive and resilient food systems.

Speaking at the launch of the National Challenge Fund, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said: “This kind of solutions-driven research will help us to tackle the big societal changes we face as we become a green and digital country, and I am already looking forward to the years ahead as we see the projects advance.”

The National Challenge Fund is supported by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.