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Expert drive to fix broken food system

food insecurity

Researchers, academics, industry, government organisations and NGOs have launched a group effort to solve some of the world’s food problems. 

Malnutrition, obesity, waste and the overuse of plastics are some of the challenges the Vision 2020 Food Helix aims to tackle with technology.

Led by Brunel University London, the Food Helix acts as a dating agency getting people working in different areas together to bid for EU research funding.

“One in nine people in the world are food insecure,” Brunel Business School’s Dr Manoj Dora told the first Food Helix gathering, outlining the scale of the problem with future food supply.

“There’s widespread hunger and malnutrition, yet more than 50% of people in Europe are either overweight or obese. In 2016, we in the west threw away 220 million tonnes of food – the total amount of food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa. On the one hand we have hunger, and on the other hand we have too much food.”

High suicide rates among farmers, food fraud and the environmental and social impact of food waste are more of the alarming challenges the food sector faces.

Guests heard about Brunel’s research in the food sector at its Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food chains and talked about food safety controls in the food chain, food systems in Africa and climate-smart farming.

‘We’re here to start thinking about how we deal with our broken food system,” said Dr Dora. “How do we build our future food system? How can we use advances in technology to help, such as 3D printing and blockchain? How can innovative cross-cutting management tools redesign agricultural production to improve efficiency and eliminate waste and losses?”

The strengths Brunel brings to the challenge are in materials processing, thermal engineering, environmental sciences and new management systems, said Professor Geoff Rodgers, Brunel’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation. “We’re particularly interested in understanding the circular economies for the food and agriculture industry.”

Partner, Vision2020, hosts 17 clusters or ‘Helixes’ of researchers and companies that each work together to solve one of the global social problems pinpointed by the EU’s Horizon 2020 – an £80 billion EU fund to power research and innovation. Other Helixes focus on challenges such as health, climate and cyber security.

“These problems are critically important for society and will only be addressed by industry coming together with the research base in a multi-disciplinary, multi-sector way,” said Prof Rodgers.

image: ONE Campaign

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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