Friday, 20 May 2022

Healthy and nutritious food for a growing world population

Producing healthy and nutritious food to a growing world population without exhausting our planet’s resources is a pressing global challenge. 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions are derived from food systems, and 80% of biodiversity loss is caused by agriculture. On top of this, one third of the food we produce is lost or wasted along the food chain, which adds to the challenges of resource efficiency.

To counteract this development, this Challenge Programme 2023 theme will support a transformation of our current agri-food systems and transform them into circular systems with high productivity, food security, low environmental impact, and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The specific challenge of this theme is to enable a transformation of agri-food systems that will secure sustainable and healthy foods for all. The programme is aimed at fundamental and strategic research spanning primary production to consumption, as well as financial structures required for this transition.

Addressing these challenges requires holistic approaches across the value chain. The research must be interdisciplinary in nature – within technology readiness levels (TRL) 1 through 4 – and touch upon more than a single link in the agri-food value chain such that feedback loops within the food system are possible.

Supported research may include but is not limited to:

  • Development of circular food production systems with optimized resource use and biomass conversion efficiencies, e.g., linking biomanufacturing, economics, and landscape planning
  • Development of production systems for healthy and safe food that employ sustainability traits in the field, e.g., linking nutrition, microbiology, genetics, and agronomy
  • Design of new, resilient, and high-yielding cropping systems, e.g., linking functional ecology, agricultural systems, and robotics
  • Development of financial structures that promote sustainable agriculture and food production, e.g., linking biodiversity, processing technologies, and economics
  • Development of digital twins of agroecosystems, food industry 4.0, or other multi-scale systems analysis tools for sustainability, e.g., linking machine learning, field sensing, imaging techniques, and ecosystem productivity
  • Eco-friendly blockchain-driven commodity trading for traceability of environmental indicators or food quality parameters, e.g., linking data science, trading, and remote sensing

Research strictly focusing on single parts of the value chain, e.g., breeding, ingredients, or food processing technologies, will be considered too narrow. Production of biomass for feed, energy, or materials may be part of the research if it constitutes an integrated part of a circular food system. Behaviour and preferences related to food consumption, livestock commodities, and regulatory frameworks are not in focus.

Any research methodology or discipline can be included, but a clear element of life science rooted in agriculture and/or food production is required. Projects with a clear data science component in the research are strongly recommended. The Foundation also encourages a high-risk approach for the proposed research. The programme does not include development of specific end-products.

Find more information about the Challenge Programme theme Future Agri-Food Systems, including the application process, here.