£5m boost for sustainable food innovations

UK businesses and universities will receive £5m funding to help them solve some of the world's greatest agricultural challenges such as food security and sustainability.

By 2050, the world’s population is estimated to grow to 10 billion. To feed everyone, food production will have to double, resulting in more food being produced over the next 40 years than in the last 6,000 years combined.

This £5m subsidy is part of the government-sponsored £70m Agri-Tech Catalyst programme, which aims to make the UK a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability.

Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council chief executive Professor Jackie Hunter said: “This funding will help translate some of the UK’s world-leading bioscience research into new technologies for agriculture, to help feed a growing population sustainably whilst creating new opportunities for economic growth and jobs in the UK and around the world.

“These exciting projects will turn research into practice, helping to boost crop yields, protect livestock and improve the sustainability of food production.”

Some of these ground-breaking projects include:

– Exploring pearl millet variation to produce improved bread products for diabetics

– Developing rice resistance to 2 major diseases to support food security in Asia

– Autonomous systems for remotely monitoring an invasive fruit pest

– Developing a robotic weed sprayer for difficult terrain farm land

– Decreasing food waste through the control of fruit flies in Asia and Africa

– Exploring the use of genome-screening and other technology to reduce the mastitis disease in sheep

The grant is particularly timely given the announcement on Tuesday of a report commissioned by three farming bodies, which claimed the EU was on course to “ban” the use of 40 chemicals by 2020 to reduce environmental damage.

This could lead to diminished yield from a variety of food crops thanks to a surge in pests.

INFOGRAPHIC: Agri-tech catalyst – food security

Brad Allen

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