Written by Chris Hewat-Boyne, Funding Consultant
Since the dawn of time, humans have looked upon this earth with hungry eyes. As nomads, we became weary of rummaging, foraging, and hunting to feed ourselves. There is no single combination of factors that led us to abandon the nomadic lifestyle, but ~10,000 years ago (give or take a few thousand years) civilians thought to themselves: “Enough of this rummaging for berries, let’s prepare our fields for the cornflake revolution” … or something like that.
When humans made this transition towards farming practices, ~5m people were roaming the planet. This concerted farming effort helped gear up human proliferation, creating the global population we see today (~8bn people, at last count). To put this into perspective, there are now >80 cities around the world that could contain the 5m people that began farming practices. That’s a lot of cornflakes to deliver.
By 2050, global populations are expected to reach 10bn, creating a projected 70% surge in food demand. Current global food systems (encompassing production, post-farm processes, and distribution) are already stretched and are a critical global emission contributor.
From field to plate, current farming practices create ~13.59bn tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year or around ~26% of total global emissions. As such, governments are investing to secure our climate future alongside the assurance that food supply can meet demand.
To fulfil this remit, the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have partnered with a shared aim to help farmers, growers and foresters increase productivity and better manage the sustainability and environmental impact of mass agriculture and horticulture.
UKRI and DEFRA will fund UK businesses and Research Organisations that focus on:
So, where will this investment go? What will it achieve, and what kind of projects can we expect?
Promising innovations on the horizon may include:
Funds are likely to be released and awarded to projects aligned to the Future Farming and Countryside Programme, Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan and new ‘Farming is Changing’ policy change guidance.
One thing is for sure – if you don’t like the idea of lab-grown meat or tucking into an insect burger, we had better start thinking of ways to make our current food staples more sustainable and productive!