Posted on 3 February 2014
Scientists from the University of York, the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera), Askham Bryan College and the Stockbridge Technology Centre are involved in the new venture.
An inaugural workshop involving 50 scientists covered a range of topics including the socio-economics of food, healthy soil, biodiversity, climate change, how to breed more resilient crops and the extraction of valuable raw materials from crop waste.
The four institutions combine the capacity to identify and model new threats to the food chain and the natural environment with the ability to design, develop, test and deploy appropriate solutions. These could include crops that are more resilient to drought and other extremes in weather and new ways of detecting and controlling crop diseases.
The partners are committed to providing better scientific and technical support to farmers and to agricultural technology and food businesses, large and small, across the region and beyond. Focusing on crops and food, internationally recognised academic excellence, and knowledge transfer skills, the four institutions are located in some of the best agricultural land in the country and at the centre of a concentration of food, bioenergy and chemicals companies.
Ideas for new collaborations included the extraction of valuable waxes from waste straw, breeding drought resistant crops and producing biofuel from woody waste. The scientists will also seek funding to look at new ways to tackle herbicide resistance, develop better tools that ensure food authenticity, safety and quality and to quantify the economic and environmental impact of increased field margins.
Fera and the University of York’s York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI), have recently established a joint initiative on agri-food resilience and jointly hosted the workshop. It focuses on food and non-food crop production systems, to address the key issues of food security and environmental sustainability both to benefit the rural economy and sponsor innovation in agritechnology.
Fera’s Chief Scientist and Chair of the Agri-Food Resilience Initiative, Professor Rob Edwards, said: “This is an exciting time for the sector. Government has recognised the need to feed a growing population without damaging the natural environment through efficient and more sustainable agricultural production.”
Professor Sue Hartley, Co-Chair of the Agri-Food Resilience Initiative and Director of YESI added: “The agri-food resilience initiative and the new Agricultural Technologies strategy are fantastic opportunities to capitalise on the research excellence in the region. It was really exciting to see so many innovative research ideas emerging from the workshop.”