New project explores how to secure the UK’s food future

Posted on 8 June 2017

IKnowFood to integrate multi-stakeholder knowledge and perspectives

IKF Picture Combine HArvester - Howard Cambridge

How do we keep food on the plates of UK households in the coming decades? This is a central question for IKnowFood, a major new collaborative research project launched today.

Thanks to advances in agriculture and logistics, and the burgeoning of international trade, absolute food shortages are a distant memory in the UK, like other G7 countries. But the future resilience of food systems is a growing concern.

This is because food systems – and the patterns of  food production, trade and consumption that underpin them – are increasingly vulnerable to political, economic and ecological shocks and stresses. These are associated with climatic and other environmental changes, shifts in farming practices, uneven power dynamics, rising demand, and evolving consumer lifestyles.

 IKnowFood – Integrating Knowledge for Food Systems Resilience

IKnowFood

IKnowFood
seeks to throw light on the main obstacles to the future resilience of the UK food system, and how we can overcome them. According to the project’s early working definition, food system resilience is “the ability of the system over time to learn, adapt and transform to cope at multiple levels with external and internal stresses and shocks in order to provide supplies of food that are economically, environmentally and nutritionally sustainable”.

IKnowFood will weave together insights from multiple academic disciplines and stakeholders from all stages of the food system to develop new systems, tools and technologies that ensure the sustainable supply of nutritious food for future generations.

 “The breadth of knowledge exchange planned within IKnowFood makes it particularly exciting,” says Chris West of SEI’s York Centre, one of the co-investigators on the theme of food supply chains. “Whilst it will be challenging to align the interests and perspectives of farmers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers, media, policy partners and others in a constructive and productive way, we believe that taking this kind of integrated approach to food system resilience has great potential to yield direct benefits to UK – and international – food security.”

 SEI in IKnowFood

SEI experts have been deeply involved since the earliest discussions in 2013 that led to the project’s development. The project will call on a range of insights and methodologies from SEI projects. In particular, the supply chain theme will benefit from SEI’s pioneering work using the IOTA and SEI-PCS tools and the Trase platform to reveal how actors and environmental impacts are linked in global consumption-to-production systems.

Jonathan Ensor, also of SEI York Centre, will be co-investigator for the on-farm theme. He will bring his broad experience in participatory development and equitable environmental governance to the question of how to co-develop information resources and appropriate technologies for farmers.

 The four-year project is led by Bob Doherty of the York Management School and the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI). The IKnowFood research team comes from across the University of York and SEI York, along with the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester.

SEI are experts at problem-based research and add genuine value to the IKnowFood team  “SEI were pivotal in developing the IKnowFood proposal. SEI provide novel approaches such as co-design of technologies in participation with farmers and the innovative approaches to supply chain analysis using modeling such as IOTA and Trase,” says Bob Doherty.  SEI are experts at problem-based research and add genuine value to the IKnowFood team.”

 With the project so focused on interdisciplinary research and multi-stakeholder participation, new partners are always welcome. If you would like to be involved as a participant in this research agenda, please get in touch.

 IKnowFood is generously funded by the Global Food Security Programme.

To learn more about IKnowFood’s team and ongoing work, read news from the project, and find out how to get involved, visit https://iknowfood.org.