New £5m research network to help UK agri-food industry reach net zero

It will bring together UK researchers to explore effective ways to support the industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions whilst improving its environmental sustainability

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A new network of researchers has been set up to help the agri-food industry in the UK move towards achieving net zero emissions.

It will bring together UK researchers to explore effective ways to support the industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions whilst improving its environmental sustainability.

The £5 million network – led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and four of its research councils – will also help the agri-food sector enhance biodiversity, maintain healthy ecosystems, nurture livelihoods, support healthy consumer habits and minimise the environmental impacts of overseas trade.

According to latest research, the UK’s agri-food industry – which includes manufacturing, retail, consumption and waste management – is responsible for almost a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair said: “The agriculture food system produces nearly a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions.

“By bringing together a multidisciplinary team and engaging a wide range of stakeholders, this project will explore how the journey from farm to fork could be made more sustainable.

“It will also help to meet the UK government’s strategy for achieving net zero by 2050.”

The funding will be provided over three years, starting in July 2022.

The network will be led by a team of four researchers: Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy from the University of the West of England, Professor Tim Benton from the University of Leeds, Professor Sarah Bridle from the University of York and Professor Neil Ward from the University of East Anglia.

Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Associate Professor of Food Systems at the University of the West of England and project co-lead added: “Climate change is increasingly recognised as the major threat for humanity. Extreme weather events, likely caused by climate change, are already decimating crop yields.

“The cost of living crisis caused by the pandemic is driving up food prices, leading people to prioritise cheap food over sustainable food. And the war in Ukraine is wreaking havoc in a major global breadbasket, risking famines and food protectionism globally.

“What will be the innovations we want to invest in and scale up? These are the challenges we will seek to address in the next three years and we’re excited to work with stakeholders across the agri-food system to put us on a net zero pathway.”