Knowledge for a sustainable world

The Food Accelerator programme welcomed its latest cohort of food and drink business owners in a lively introductory meeting on 16 October 2023. Participants representing 20 businesses will be trained over four months on various aspects of food product development and business management. The programme includes training, workshops, events and several networking opportunities to help businesses grow or turn business ideas to market. NRI and partners established the Food Accelerator programme as part of the Growing Kent and Medway (GKM) initiative that is advancing food innovation and entrepreneurship both locally and internationally. It brings together industry, scientists, technologies and entrepreneurs to stimulate innovation in healthy and sustainable food production.

Rural women are vital to the global economy and play crucial roles in food systems. Their activities are essential for both rural societies and urban communities. Women make up 43 percent of the global agricultural labour force. They cultivate the land and grow much of our food, contribute to rural enterprises, build climate resilience and fuel local and global economies. At the same time, they are responsible for much of societies’ unpaid informal care work contributing to food security, nutrition and well-being.’

NRI recently hosted a Canadian delegation who were in the UK to explore partnership opportunities to advance research and development in alternative proteins. The visit, on 26 September, follows a new partnership between Innovate UK, under the Global Business Innovation Programme, and Protein Industries Canada, announced in June 2023. The partnership aims to strengthen connections across the alternative protein-based food sector to help meet both countries’ sustainability and net zero ambitions. Ultimately, the two countries are working to create more secure and sustainable food supply chains while creating new economic opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.

Estimates suggest that nearly a third of the food produced for human consumption globally—roughly 1.3 billion tonnes a year—is wasted or lost on its journey from farm to table. At the same time, between 691 and 783 million people did not have sufficient access to food in 2022.

While not immediately obvious, food loss and waste (FLW) are very complex phenomena. The data and metrics around the scale of FLW vary by commodity, location and year among other factors. FLW figures are the aggregated losses from each of the different activity stages in the value chain. For grains and dried crops, these are the losses of food during harvesting, transport, drying, threshing, winnowing, sorting, storing, processing and marketing. Waste on the other hand, is food that is discarded and not utilised at the retail level or consumed at the catering level, or by individual households.

The mention of food safety in wet markets probably conjures up memories of the emergence of COVID-19 for most of us. But besides COVID-19, there are good reasons for our trepidation. 

We are all trying to make healthier food choices especially with the rise in cases of obesity and other diet-related health complications. With the recently introduced government policy requiring larger food outlets to publish the number of calories in their meals on their menus, these choices have become increasingly challenging.

The Malabo Montpellier Panel’s report ‘BRIDGING THE GAP: Policy Innovations to Put Women at the Center of Food System Transformation in Africa’, was launched at the 12th Malabo Montpellier Forum, which took place online on 8 June 2023. Professor Sheryl Hendriks, Director of the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) and member of the Panel, presented the report.

A key challenge to eradicating onchocerciasis is a shortage of disease surveillance skills. Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. The parasites are transmitted by repeated bites of blackflies belonging to the biological group Simulium. Africa carries the bulk of the disease burden with over 99% of infected people residing in 31 African countries. To address this skills gap, a team from NRI conducted a training course from 19-23 June 2023 at the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) in Sunyani, Ghana.

Modern agriculture is heavily reliant on pesticides to meet the food, feed and fibre demands of a rising global population. Pesticide use has dramatically increased worldwide; however, increasing concern about their safety and sustainability is driving growing demand for alternatives to synthetic pesticides.

NRI’s Dr. Noushin Emami has recently been awarded the Flormanska prize 2023 by the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences (KVA). She was recognised "for using creativity and great breadth in approach to have identified chemical substances that affect the behaviour of mosquitoes and their ability to spread vector-borne parasites to humans".

The Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle hosted a reception for the Action for Animal Health (A4AH) coalition for key political and veterinary figures at the House of Commons on Tuesday 4 July, to mark the formal launch of a new report.