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Global food project launches at York

Posted on 7 June 2017

A major £3.3 million research project into global food system resilience launches this week at the University of York.

World-leading speakers, including the Head of Sustainability at Sainsbury’s, will take part in a panel debate on global food security on Thursday 8 June at the York Management School. The event is part of the N8 Agrifood resilience programme.

IKnowFood, funded by the Global Food Security Programme, is a collaborative project led by the University of York in partnership with the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool.

Working to deepen our understanding of the UK and global food systems, the research team will collaborate with farmers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to understand what can be done to maintain stable levels of nutritious food supply.

Food production pressures

Bob Doherty, Professor of Marketing at the York Management School and project lead, explains: “The UN expects global demand for food to increase by 60 per cent by 2050, driven largely by population growth and changing dietary patterns among burgeoning middle classes in China, India and other large developing countries.

“At the same time, food production is under severe pressure from climate change, extreme weather, water depletion, soil degradation, resource conflict and political instability. These pressures are present alongside escalating problems of obesity, nutritional deficiency and diet-related health problems.”

Practical tools

IKnowFood researchers aim to develop practical tools to increase food resilience through four research strands:

  • Farmers, scientists and engineers will work together to create new technologies that enable farmers to detect crop disease early on, and identify the best time to harvest
  • A new database of key food commodity supply chains will be established to support retailers and manufacturers. This will combine trade statistics, social and environmental risk assessments, company data and regulatory and governance information to inform business decisions.
  • Health scientists, psychologists and computer scientists will investigate consumer beliefs and values, and why different population groups make different food choices. This will inform the creation of mobile apps, websites and other forms of communication designed to persuade consumers of healthy and sustainable choices.
  • A forum for industry, consumer and research bodies will be established to create a food system resilience network to enable data-sharing and the testing of practical tools across the food industry

Unified understanding

Professor Doherty adds: “We believe that different parts of the food chain - from farmers to supermarkets to policy makers - all need to have an opportunity to share ideas and insights if we are to develop a unified understanding of food resilience.

“IKnowFood will provide the academic expertise and analysis to underpin these discussions, opening the possibility of new opportunities for building a more sustainable approach to food system resilience.”​

IKnowFood launches with a panel debate on ‘Global Food Security in the 21st Century – How Resilient is our Food System?’ from 6.30pm – 8.30pm on Thursday 8 June at the York Management School.

Further information:

  • 'Global Food Security in the 21st Century - How Resilient is our Food System?' takes place inroom LMB/002x, York Management School, University of York, Freboys Lane, YO105GD on Thursday 8 June. Speakers include: Robert Costanza, Professor and Chair in Public Policy at Crawford School of Public Policy, Australia; Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University of London's Centre for Food Policy; Paul Crewe, Head  of Sustainability at Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd.
  • IKnowFood is a success of the N8 Agrifood interdisciplinary research programme across N8 universities. For more information, visit:
  • The N8 Research Partnership (N8) is the collaboration body for the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and York, and aims to maximise the impact of this research base to enable business innovation and societal transformation. The N8 universities form the largest research-pooling partnership in the UK. N8’s priority areas of collaborative research are Urban and Community Transformation – including Policing Research, Urban Living and Arts and Culture; and AgriFood – including Sustainable Food Production, Consumption & Health, and Resilient Supply Chains. N8’s strategy also focuses on areas of growth notably in Life Sciences, and in Robotics & Autonomous Systems.
  • For more information about the IKnowFood project, visit:

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