Food Business and Development - Doctoral Theses

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    The competitiveness of the Irish dairy industry in the global market: farm to trade
    (University College Cork, 2023) Cele, Lungelo Prince; Hennessey, Thia; Eakins, John; Thorne, Fiona; Teagasc
    The removal of the EU milk quota in 2015 has increased the exposure of the Irish dairy industry to international competitors and has raised the question of how competitive is the Irish dairy industry in the global market. The purpose of this thesis was to measure Irish dairy sector –competitiveness by examining the interaction between the farming system and the trading system of processed dairy products in the global market. In the context of the removal of the EU milk quota in 2015, it examined the competitiveness trends and rankings of the Irish dairy sector at the farm and trade levels, relative to selected European Union (EU) Member States. In 2019, Ireland was the third-largest exporter of butter in the world butter market and Irish butter prices were more volatile than other Irish dairy products. Despite the significance of butter in the dairy industry, empirical research that examines the market price dynamics and international competitor behaviour in the butter market has remained scarce. The thesis contributed to the objectives of the Food Wise 2025 and the Food Vision 2030 policies by examining the dynamics between farm milk and butter prices (linking farm and trade levels) to ensure that there is a transfer of benefits from trade to farmers through price transparency. Competitiveness indicators including partial productivity measures and accountancy-based indicators were used for farm competitiveness, and net export market share and normalised revealed comparative advantage were used for export competitiveness. A stochastic meta-frontier approach was adopted for comparing Irish regional farm technical efficiencies (proxy for farm competitiveness). The vector error correction model was applied to test the extent to which changes in competitor prices and farm milk prices had an impact on Irish butter prices. It was also used to measure the competitiveness integration relationship between global butter competitors. Amongst the countries examined, Ireland had the highest growth in partial productivity indicators and was ranked first with the lowest total costs and cash costs per kg of milk solids post-quota amongst the main European competitor countries examined. The potential challenge for Irish dairy farmers is how to lessen the relatively high land and labour costs to come in line with the main European competitor countries, which can limit farm competitiveness in the long-run. Based on the Irish regional farm technical efficiencies, the findings suggested that policies aiming to promote labor use and soil quality improvement in the East region would be useful for improving efficiency in that region post-quota. The findings also suggested that policies that related to discussion groups and management of herd size in the South region would also be useful for improving efficiency in that region post-quota. Some farms expanded beyond their optimal scale leading to a reduction in efficiency levels, especially in a region like the South West. That pointed to the need to tailor farm advice and promote caution in relation to farm expansion decisions. The regional growth patterns and insights may be used for adapting the national policy frameworks to regions in policy dialogues, i.e. to achieve the Food Vision 2030 with ambitious targets set for expansion. While Irish dairy products, such as butter and powders, have demonstrated growth potential in competitiveness post-quota, other products, i.e. cheese and liquid milk have declined. Despite the growing competition in the global butter market, Ireland became the second most competitive country in the world and was advancing rapidly at the time of analysis. Irish butter was the only Irish dairy product that had maintained a comparative advantage. Irish butter prices were more responsive to shocks in New Zealand butter prices and Irish farm milk prices in the long-run with positive bidirectional causality effects. Based on the findings, Irish dairy farmers and processors were more susceptible to pricing decisions made by international butter processors. Irish butter exports were found to be less susceptible to competitiveness changes in Belgian butter exports and more sensitive to competitiveness changes in NZ butter exports. Consequently, the key players in the Irish dairy industry can now better position themselves in the global dairy market, recognising the competitiveness dynamics of the different dairy products and their competitors. The thesis policy recommendations and areas for future research were presented in the conclusion section.
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    Evaluation of the manufacture of cheese from micellar casein concentrate or using novel coagulants
    (University College Cork, 2022-09-23) Li, Bozhao; McSweeney, Paul L. H.; Kelly, Alan; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Food Institutional Research Measure
    Novel materials and coagulants for cheese manufacture are currently of interest since the development of membrane filtration technology and gene recombination technology may offer opportunities for innovation in cheese manufacture. A novel dairy material – micellar casein concentrate (MCC) – is the co-product of whey protein recovery. As the main protein source in cheese is casein, MCC has the potential to be a starting material for cheese manufacture. The objective of the work presented in the first part of this thesis was to evaluate the feasibility of the manufacture of Cheddar and Quarg cheeses from micellar casein concentrate. In addition, camel chymosin has been reported to cause less proteolysis as a coagulant for cheese manufacture compared to bovine chymosin. The suitability of manufacture of Cheddar cheese using a novel camel chymosin with structural changes was also investigated. The rennet and acid coagulation properties of micellar casein concentrate were evaluated. MCC had a higher casein in total protein content compared to low heat skim milk powder (LHSMP), and shorter rennet coagulation time and higher gel strength were found in MCC compared to that of LHSMP. A gelation pH value greater than 5 was found in MCC. MCC produced by cold microfiltration (MF) formed acid-induced gels with high strength at pH 4.6, while the gel strength of acid-induced gels formed by warm MF MCC reached the highest at a pH value of around 5 and decreased below this value due to rearrangements of the casein network. The suitability of the manufacture of Cheddar cheese from MCC was subsequently investigated; standard control milk, skim milk with cream, reconstituted MCC with cream and reconstituted LHSMP with cream were used for comparison. The use of MCC led to increased proteolysis compared to the other treatments, linked to higher plasmin and chymosin activities in the cheese. Increased springiness, cohesiveness and meltability were found in Cheddar cheese manufactured from MCC. For the manufacture of Quarg cheese, lower moisture and higher protein contents were found in cheese made from MCC compared to that made from LHSMP. Cheese made from hot MF MCC showed the highest hardness compared to that made from LHSMP or cold MF MCC. Higher glycomacropeptide (GMP) content was found in cheese whey made from MCC. The suitability of manufacture of Cheddar cheese using a modified fermentation-produced camel chymosin (mCC) was investigated; fermentation-produced bovine chymosin (BC) and camel chymosin (CC) were used for comparison. The use of mCC led to reduced proteolysis compared with BC or CC, and higher instrumental and sensory hardness and lower meltability were found in cheeses made using CC or mCC compared to BC. Descriptive sensory analysis indicated less sulphur and barny flavour in cheese made with CC and mCC, while cheese made using mCC showed the lowest brothy flavour and bitter taste. Finally, the proteolytic specificity of the three generations of chymosin on NaCN at pH 5.2 with 5% NaCl and 6.5 and in proteolysis of Cheddar cheese made using these coagulants were investigated. Many peptides were identified through liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in both NaCN digests and Cheddar cheese made using each chymosin. Other than the majority of peptides produced by BC and CC reported in the literature, some new peptides were identified in this study as well. The proteolytic activity of mCC was relatively lower than that of BC and CC. Overall, the results presented in this thesis will support the innovation and application of new materials for the manufacture of cheese and other dairy products and add to the understanding of the properties of three generations of chymosin when used in cheese manufacture.
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    Developing indicators of the social sustainability of farming using the Teagasc National Farm Survey
    (University College Cork, 2022) Brennan, Mary; Hennessy, Thia; Dillon, Emma; Teagasc
    The emergence of agricultural and food sustainability as a major societal objective has resulted in a considerable shift in the focus and design of EU policy relating to agriculture, food, and rural development. As such, the dimensions of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) are reflected in the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2023-2027. The monitoring and evaluation of policy is a key element of the new CAP and consequently, there exists a need for harmonised multidimensional indicators to gauge progress towards specific sustainability targets. Moreover, the transition of the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) to the Farm Sustainability Data Network (FSDN) reflects the commitment of the European Commission to enhancing sustainable farming practices, and this necessitates an expansion of existing farm level indicators to improve policy monitoring and evaluation, particularly with regard to social and environmental metrics. In response to this policy need, this thesis aims to contribute to the ongoing development of sustainability metrics at the farm level, cognisant of evolving policy themes and drivers impacting Irish and European agriculture, and focuses on social indicators of sustainability. Indicators to assess the economic, and more recently, environmental sustainability of agricultural systems have dominated much of the sustainability discourse to date, with little on the assessment of social sustainability. The broad nature of social sustainability does not lend itself readily to measurement by conventional, quantitative means. An extensive review of the literature suggests that agricultural social sustainability can be considered as either ‘internal’ (relating to farmer wellbeing) and ‘external’ (at societal level)’, encompassing animal welfare and community wellbeing. Expanding on this ‘internal’ and ‘external’ classification, and following consultation with stakeholders, this thesis categorises social sustainability into dimensions reflecting farmer, animal and community wellbeing, and identifies relevant indicators for each dimension. Farmer wellbeing incorporates elements relating to quality of life (i.e. working hours, stress etc.), animal wellbeing consolidates herd level welfare data, while community wellbeing examines indicators measuring multifunctionality, service accessibility and heritage and culture (including generational renewal). Statistical analysis of data collected through a special survey, in addition to supporting socio-demographic data from the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) relayed key information on the social sustainability of Irish farms. From a farmer wellbeing perspective, this research finds that dairy farmers are more likely to experience farm related stress relative to operators of cattle, sheep or tillage systems. In addition to a stress assessment, this thesis assessed farmer wellbeing levels through the development of a composite index, the Farmer Sustainability Index (FSI), comprising indicators which reflect farm continuity, community and social connections, and farmer comfort. The FSI indicates that farmers working in the cattle sector, of older age profile, and residing in more peripheral regions experience relatively lower levels of wellbeing. Indicators assessing community wellbeing reveal regional variation, with communities in the Border and West performing less well in terms of wellbeing compared to other regions. In terms of farm continuity, a higher proportion of dairy farmers have identified a successor. Moreover, in terms of animal wellbeing, representative data from the NFS finds that welfare on dairy farms has remained relatively stable during an expansionary phase following EU milk quota abolition in 2015. These findings indicate that farm level social sustainability varies considerably by farm system and subsequently region. Variations in the FSI scores and those of its components reveal the extent to which farm heterogeneity influences wellbeing levels. Additionally, the underlying farm economic and socio-demographic attributes are influential. This serves to highlight difficulties in applying a common policy approach in the pursuit of improved social sustainability across farm systems with differing wellbeing needs. As the FADN expands its remit to better encapsulate sustainability through the FSDN, it is imperative that additional social sustainability indicators are developed. This thesis finds that, with modifications, the FADN framework retains the ability to effectively assess and collect social sustainability metrics for European farms. Indeed the Teagasc National Farm Survey has been at the forefront in this regard, devising a bank of social sustainability indicators and providing a roadmap for data collection and analysis. This research contributes to the discourse on agricultural social sustainability measurement, through the development of a range of indicators reflective of farmer, animal and community wellbeing dimensions. Recommendations for future data collection and research are also provided.
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    An assessment of the impact of land structure on the economic performance of dairy farming in Ireland
    (University College Cork, 2021-11-11) Bradfield, Tracy; Hennessy, Thia; Butler, Robert; Dillon, Emma; Teagasc
    The European Union (EU) milk quota was abolished in 2015 leading to an increased demand for land for dairy farming in Ireland. Between 2014 and 2019, raw milk production increased by 42 percent in Ireland (Bradfield et al., 2021a). However, the land market in the Republic of Ireland is restricted by low mobility. The Republic of Ireland’s agricultural land market experiences very low levels of sales with less than 1 percent of agricultural land sold each year (CSO, 2020a). This is attributed to a strong desire of people in Ireland to keep land in the family name. Ireland also has a low level of land rental. To increase land rental on secure leases, the Irish government increased incentives in 2015 for landowners to rent out their land on long term leases. Using econometric techniques applied to farm-level Teagasc National Farm Survey data, which is part of the Farm Accountancy Data Network, this research provides contributions to the study of agricultural land markets that focus on three main research questions. These include an assessment of the factors that influence the decision to rent in agricultural land and the determinants of profit among renting dairy farms in Ireland, the effect of land fragmentation on dairy farm technical inefficiency, and the impact of land lease duration on dairy farm investment. Research findings show that dairy farms are using the rental market to improve profitability. Farm characteristics such as a small size, a high stocking rate, the presence of a successor and high levels of hired labour increase the likelihood of entering a rental agreement. Renting in land and a less fragmented farm structure reduce dairy farm technical inefficiency. Dairy farms can reduce their technical inefficiency by either renting or purchasing land parcels that are adjoining their current land resources. The results also indicate that farms with a high portion of rented land, which is rented on long-term leases, invest more in their herd and capital. This suggests that long-term land rental is a feasible means to create certainty over investments when land purchases are not possible. In conclusion, these findings highlight the benefits of an active land market to individual farmers and the overall dairy sector, which lends support to policy measures to improve the rental market and thus land mobility. Although the number of agricultural land rental agreements has risen since the removal of the EU milk quota and the increase in tax incentives for long-term land leases, Ireland continues to have the lowest level of land rental in the EU, at 19 percent, compared to an average of 54 percent (European Commission, 2018). This research recommends a review of the structure of current tax incentives for long-term leases because the existing thresholds do not maximise incentives for farmers to rent out their land. Other contributions of this research include a greater understanding of markets with an inelastic supply curve, the role long-term leases can play in improving tenure security, the importance of an extensive use of land fragmentation indicators when studying farms’ structures, and the requirement for market intervention to improve land mobility. Topics for further research are also outlined.
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    Rural social enterprise: an exploration of hybridity and engagement with place
    (University College Cork, 2021-02-27) van Twuijver, Mara Willemijn; O'Shaughnessy, Mary; Hennessey, Thia; Horizon 2020
    Rural social enterprises throughout Europe are found to fulfil needs of rural communities that are not met otherwise (van Twuijver et al., 2020). Previous research shows that rural social enterprises are strongly embedded within their local communities, while at the same time connecting these to external actors and network (Richter, 2019). Furthermore, previous research shows that rural social enterprises operate from a wide and diverse resource base (O’Shaughnessy and O’Hara, 2016b). In this study, this resource base is understood as a hybrid resource base, given that resources from the private, public and third sector are combined (Doherty, Haugh and Lyon, 2014). In recent decades there is growing interest from policy, practice and academia in the role that rural social enterprises can play in realizing rural development (TFSSE, 2014; Richter et al., 2020). Against this backdrop, this study set out to deepen our understanding of the way in which rural social enterprises operate within a rural context. Hitherto, empirical research into this has been scarce, leaving gaps in our understanding of how and through which mechanisms rural social enterprises are able to realize meaningful contributions to the places and communities they serve. In order to investigate this, two research questions have been formulated. The first question is focused on investigating which capabilities rural social enterprises develop in order to manage their hybrid resource base. The second research question is focused on how rural social enterprises engage with the rural context in which they operate. A conceptual framework has been constructed that utilizes insights from Resource Orchestration Theory (ROT) and the human geographic concept of place. In combining the two theoretical perspectives, a framework emerged in which place is understood as a unique configuration of (potential) resources that rural social enterprises engage with as part of their hybrid resource portfolio. This framework has been utilized to conduct an in-depth qualitative case analysis of two rural social enterprises in Ireland. Data has been collected through semi-structured interviews, participant observations and archival document analysis. The data has been analysed using abductive analysis, anchored in a realist ontology. The findings of this study outline five capabilities developed by rural social enterprises that support the orchestration of a hybrid resource portfolio, namely institutional connectivity, community connectivity, market connectivity, managing paradoxes and organisational adaptability, and describe the practices that underly each of these capabilities. Furthermore, the findings outline six forms of engagement with place, namely harnessing locational aspects for marketable activities; fostering a collective sense of place; (re)invigorating social connections; enhancing institutional relations; building on local human capital; and improving local material settings. The findings evidence that rural social enterprises do not only utilize economic means to fulfil their organisational objectives but show the importance of integrating these means with resources deriving from institutional and community sources. In describing five capabilities utilized to manage the hybrid resource portfolio, this study provides insight into the organisational processes and routines that enable the mobilization and integration of different resources in a rural setting. Moreover, the described capabilities support engagement with place because they provide the rural social enterprises with different approaches to access and mobilize elements of place as organisational resources. By utilizing elements of place as organisational resources, the rural social enterprises are found to alter/enhance these elements, and hence are not only influenced by, but also influence the rural context in which they operate. It is concluded that there is a mutually reinforcing link between the ability to manage a hybrid resource portfolio and engagement with place. Additionally, it is concluded that productively hybridizing resources originating from the private, public and third sector supports the ability of rural social enterprises to function in a rural context. Practically, the findings of this study show that a better understanding of the complex character of rural social enterprises is needed to fully realize their potential as a link in the chain of rural development.