NEWS: Thumbs-up for industry collaboration on a sustainable food supply chain

16 Dec 2011

Scientists, farmers, businesses, retailers and policy-makers from across the agri-food sector are backing a co-ordinated industry approach to ensure a sustainable and efficient UK food supply chain.

It follows the Centre of Excellence for UK Farming (CEUKF) inaugural conference, where delegates from industry, academia and government debated how the UK could become the best place to produce safe and nutritious food - against the backdrop of global population growth, climate change and other key challenges.

Welcoming the CEUKF initiative, Defra Food and Farming Minister, Jim Paice, MP told conference delegates: “No one sector has the solution to the challenges facing our food production system. It will require innovative approaches, with scientists, farmers, food industry and policy-makers working in partnership to improve the efficiency, sustainability and resilience of our food supply chain.

“The Centre of Excellence for UK Farming is a timely, market-focused initiative to promote effective collaboration between the UK research base and the food supply industry, and I wish the project every success.”

Conference delegates agreed on the need for a shared vision and strategy between government, science and industry.

“The challenges facing global food security are well reported and urgent, but we are being asked to produce more, whilst reducing our resource consumption and environmental impact. The conference highlighted the case for a co-ordinated UK-wide strategy to achieve this, but there is still considerable work to do in pulling this together,” said Professor Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS, speaking after the event.

“A mix of technologies and approaches is needed to ensure consumer demands can be met. This will require more effective collaboration between research and industry,” he said.

Although the UK still boasts world class science and research, the conference recognised that the translation of new knowledge into practical benefit is increasingly challenged, and shortages are merging in key areas such as soil science and meat technology.

There were calls for a realignment of research funding, with a boost to translational and applied research within a finite science budget.

Conference delegates agreed that industry has a vital role to play in the funding and steering of research and innovation, including developing partnerships with scientists and research institutes. The urgency of the challenges ahead will mean aligning research more to market needs.

At the conference close delegates were asked to suggest three of four key actions as next steps. “We’ve already had a superb response, including offers of collaboration and help, and would like to emphasise that we remain open to ideas on ways forward from anyone within our industry,” finished Professor Powell.