Research project to ‘jump-start’ reduction in agri-food gas emissions

£5 million project set to unite UK researchers in reducing agri-food industry greenhouse gas emissions
21 July 2022 , By Steve Smethurst

A new research project, funded by UK Research and Innovation, will involve industry leaders, government and members of the public taking a whole-systems approach to the wider agri-food ecosystem.

The new three-year project aims to find ways to decarbonise agricultural production and also enhance biodiversity, maintain healthy ecosystems and support healthy consumer habits.

The AgriFood4NetZero Network+ team will produce roadmaps to help policy makers and government agencies make informed decisions about the future of agri-food. The UK Government has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in a bid to counter climate change.

The combination of agriculture, horticulture, food and drink processing is responsible for a significant amount of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Among the biggest culprits are fertilisers, methane from livestock, distribution and emissions from fluorinated greenhouse gases used in refrigeration. 

The project is being funded by UK Research and Innovation and led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It boasts four co-leads to allow it to tap into expertise across a range of disciplines, including agricultural, biological, environmental, physical, engineering, economic and social sciences. It will also involve industry leaders, government and members of the public. A further seven ‘co-investigators’ from around the UK will help steer the project.

EPSRC Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, said: “The agri-food system produces nearly a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions. By engaging a wide range of stakeholders, this project will explore how the journey from farm to fork could be made more sustainable.”

“The industry extends far beyond farming. It shapes how food gets to our supermarkets and kitchens, the manufacturing process, waste management and more.”

A coordinated and interdisciplinary approach is necessary, said co-lead Tim Benton, Professor of Population Ecology at the University of Leeds’ School of Biology: “The industry extends far beyond farming. It shapes how food gets to our supermarkets and kitchens, the manufacturing process, waste management and more. Our network will take a whole-systems approach, considering all aspects of the wider agri-food ecosystem.”

Fellow co-lead Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Associate Professor of Food Systems at the University of the West of England said she was pleased to have been able to bring together such an extensive team around a shared vision and plan of action.

She said: “This project will be absolutely critical to jump-start coordinated research and action. The scale and urgency of the challenge means the old ways of establishing and settling upon research priorities will not do.

“It is vital that researchers and stakeholders come together in a spirit of openness and collaboration, and with real urgency, to mobilise ideas and resources around advancing the transition.”

The funding will run for three years, starting in July 2022.


Image credit: Shutterstock

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