Technology will be key to transforming the UK food system

Posted on: 29/01/2019

A new report by the Global Food Security programme highlights how disruptive innovation is needed to transform the UK food system.

The food and drink sector is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, worth over £97.3 billion and accounting for 19% of total UK manufacturing. It is essential that this sector retains its strength as we move forward, and takes full advantage of innovative new technologies which have the potential to transform the way we produce our food.

A new report published by the multi-agency Global Food Security (GFS) programme has highlighted how disruptive innovation is needed to transform the UK food system. GFS developed the report in partnership with the Food and Drink Sector Council, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Sainsbury’s.

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A key recommendation is the need for a long-term UK food system innovation strategy and a joined-up approach to policy making across the whole food system.

Judith Batchelar, OBE – Director of Sainsbury’s Brand, says:

“The need to drive systemic change is indisputable. We can only be resilient to the “knocks” and “disruptions” and at the same time create value for all stakeholders if we deliver true structural change. That begins with thoughtful applied science and innovation that has the ability to transform the system both in its ambition, but also through implementation at scale and speed.”

Dr Riaz Bhunnoo, Director of the Global Food Security programme says:

“There are no silver bullets for food security, however technology is a key part of the solution. We need more research to integrate technology into the wider food system alongside dialogue with civil society on its acceptability. Our report highlights the latest cutting-edge technologies that are needed to help us secure safe, healthy and sustainable food.”

Key areas in the report include:

  • Data-driven supply chains guided by AI, with large data sets that reveal patterns and predict behaviour to improve resource efficiency, improve sustainability, and reduce levels of waste in food supply chains
  • Distributed ledger technologies that have the potential to improve trust, traceability and provenance, improving connectedness and improve management of risks associated with food fraud incidences
  • Internet of Things (IOT) and cloud computing to increase use of robotics and automated decision-making.

The report focused on five major challenges for the food industry that would benefit from transformative innovation:

  • Traceability, transparency and disclosure
  • Food safety, fraud, and security
  • Efficiency, productivity, and sustainability
  • Improving diets and health
  • Reducing waste

You can download the report from the GFS website here.

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