Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN Newsletter

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Research library

Image: Pxhere, Organic beef, CC0 Public Domain

In a paper by FCRN member Joan Karlsson of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, researchers worked together with NGOs to iteratively develop a vision for the future of food production in the Nordic countries. The final vision is based on organic farming and lower meat consumption with livestock fed only on pasture and by-products from food production.

Image: Jon Sullivan, Fresh meat, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

Optimal taxation levels would cause the price of processed meat to increase by 25% and the price of red meat to increase by 4%, on average, according to this paper. The calculations are based on the additional healthcare costs incurred by one additional serving, as opposed to the total healthcare costs associated with all meat consumption. The paper concludes that such a tax on red and processed meats could reduce the deaths associated with consumption of these products by 9% and reduce associated healthcare costs by 14%.

Image: Marco Schmidt, Guiera senegalensis, inflorescence and leaves, SW Burkina Faso, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Growing millet next to a woody shrub native to West Africa could increase biomass by over 900% compared to growing millet alone, according to this paper. The shrub, Guiera senegalensis J.F. Gmel, has tap roots that can reach water deep in the soil. The study traced the movement of water from the shrub’s deep roots to the millet stems in a simulated drought.

Image: Maia Valenzuela, translucent squid, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

This paper assesses the possibility that cephalopods, such as squid, octopus and cuttlefish, could become a more important source of food in the future. In contrast to many fish population, cephalopod populations have been rising over the last few decades, possibly due to warmer ocean temperatures. The paper gives an overviews of the nutrients provided by cephalopods and the ways that they can be used as food. The authors also note that some cephalopods, including the octopus, are intelligent and possibly sentient, raising ethical issues over their use as food.

The London-based Centre for Food Policy has published a report of its symposium “How can evidence of lived experience make food policy more effective and equitable in addressing major food system challenges?”, which sought to explore how information from people who live with food-related problems can improve food policy.

The Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research has produced an online compendium of methods for assessing agrobiodiversity, including diversity of crops, livestock, pollinators and harvested wild plants.

This interim report from the UK’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission inquiry into the challenges that the food industry, farmers, and the countryside face sets out the progress that the inquiry has made so far.

This report by the UK Health Forum argues that the UK’s current food system does not support the UK government’s healthy eating goals. For example, many subsidies support animals products and relatively few support fruit, vegetables and pulses, while healthy foods often cost more than unhealthy foods.

In the book The End of Animal Farming, author Jacy Reese examines the social forces, technologies and activism that he argues will lead to the end of animal agriculture.

Image: Solar Foods Pic 1, Solar Foods produces an entirely new kind of nutrient-rich protein using only air and electricity,

In a column for the Guardian, George Monbiot writes about the potential to create food without plants, animals or soil, using instead bacteria that feed on hydrogen (generated by solar-powered electrolysis of water) and carbon dioxide from the air. Monbiot argues that this form of food production could eventually drastically reduce the amount of land needed for the global food supply chain, and suggests that the new foodstuff could be used as an ingredient in processed foods.

Israeli startup Taranis has raised $20 million in funding for its aerial imaging technology, which uses multispectral images from satellites, planes and drones to scan fields. Artificial intelligence then identifies threats such as insects, crop disease, weeds and nutrient deficiencies. The company claims its technology can increase crop yields by up to 7.5%.

Image: liz west, cranberries, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

This piece in the New Food Economy explores why the US cranberry industry has collectively agreed to destroy one quarter of its harvest, but will not ask any farmers to scale back production. A surplus of cranberries on the market means that prices are being driven below the cost of production. The agreement to destroy a portion of the harvest means that prices will rise again. Unlike other industries, which are regulated by antitrust laws, farmers are allowed to make collective agreements such as this under the Capper–Volstead Act.


The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is undertaking a project entitled “Delivering Clean Growth through Sustainable Intensification”. The aim of the project is to inform Defra’s guidance platform on feasible greenhouse gas mitigation management practices and mitigation trajectories for English agriculture within the context of the UK, consistent with the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy.

The project will consider interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, including from agricultural wastes and nutrient fertilisers, to decarbonise the sector whilst maintaining and improving the productivity of the UK food system and supporting improved environmental outcomes. Greenhouse gases of particular interest include: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The work will consider wider environmental impacts, such as emissions to air (e.g. ammonia) and water.

As part of the project, the Contractors are drawing together existing evidence on a diverse range of agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation measures relevant to the UK. If you have relevant evidence available from published reports which assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures at a national scale and would like to share with the Contractors, please contact Chloe Smale from Defra (

UK supermarket Co-op is hiring an undergraduate student for a one year placement as a food policy coordinator. The successful candidate will support and coordinate food and drink sustainability projects, support the delivery of communications projects and deliver presentations.

Candidates should have a passion for food sustainability, be currently on an undergraduate course related to food, have great communication skills and have a good working knowledge of Microsoft Office applications.

For more details, see here. The application deadline is 15 November 2018.

Sandwich chain Pret a Manger is advertising the following two jobs for its London offices:

  1. Head of Sustainability - to develop, implement and monitor sustainability strategies and targets. Candidates should have significant work experience in sustainability and a relevant professional network.
  2. Sustainability Project Manager - reporting to the Head of Sustainability, to articulate project options, develop detailed project plans and measure and monitor progress. Candidates should have significant project management experience with PRINCE2 certification or equivalent.

For more details, see here for the Head of Sustainability and here for the Sustainability Project Manager. The deadline is 19 November 2018 for both jobs.

East London social enterprise Growing Communities is looking for a highly organised, energetic and creative Senior Manager to contribute to the overall management of the organisation and oversee their organic fruit and vegetable scheme, and organic farmers’ market and marketing.

Candidates should have management experience in social enterprises or non-profits, be comfortable with people, planning and processes, and want to create a better food system.

The role is based in Hackney for three days a week at £33,683 pro rata.

For further details, see here. The closing date is 20 November 2018.

The European Commission’s Blue Economy funding call aims to accelerate the sustainable deployment of the “blue economy” (i.e. the economic use of the marine environment) across Europe. The call is divided into three focus areas:

  1. Blue Labs, which will fund projects relating to bio-remediation, unexploded ordnances at sea, innovative marina and leisure boat design, marine biomass and blue-bioeconomy, or ecofriendly aquaculture.
  2. Blue Careers, which will fund projects that strengthen the cooperation between industry and education to bridge the gaps between supply and demand of skills.
  3. Blue Economy, which will fund demonstration projects based on innovative technologies for the blue economy.

For more details, see here. The application deadline is 31 January 2019.

Food waste startup Too Good To Go is hiring a part-time customer success employee to maintain contact with both food stores and consumers. This could be a student job or an internship. Candidates must be fluent in both English and Dutch, be enthusiastic about reducing food waste and be comfortable using the telephone.

For more details, see here. No deadline is specified.

McCain Foods is advertising for a global corporate sustainability and responsibility manager to help define and support the implementation of its sustainability strategy, monitor and report on McCain’s environmental impacts, lead the development of new initiatives and coordinate the launch of McCain’s first global sustainability report.

Candidates should have three years of experience in environmental sustainability, proven experience with data analytics and sustainability reporting, strong planning skills and the ability to lead projects.

For more details, see here. No deadline is specified.

The Eating Better alliance is advertising a part-time job as campaign and office coordinator for its London office. Candidates should have an interest in the environmental and health impacts of diets and experience of managing basic HR and finance processes, taking meeting notes, editing, proofreading and supporting event logistics.

For more details, see here. The deadline is 23 November 2018.


This webinar, organised by FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, focuses on the science behind assessing the adaptive capacity, taking nutrient use efficiency as one robust proxy of this on field level. It focuses on methodological challenges of this indicator and how different approaches to capture the soil-nitrogen dynamics can influence the results. Second, it presents results from meta-analyses comparing different farming systems regarding their nitrogen use efficiencies, which can be a basis for choosing agricultural practices with good chances to perform well under climate change.

The target audiences are scientists, but also interested people from NGOs, governmental institutions, etc.

The webinar will be held from 10:00-11:30 CET (09:00-10:30 GMT) on 15 November 2018. To join the webinar, go to this link. You can also call in via phone on +41 435 5015 61 (enter the code 963-172-317).

Food and technology startup networking event Tonic18 will be held on 3 December 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. The event is suitable for food manufacturers, entrepreneurs, retail chains, hotels and restaurants, investors, startups, scientists and media.

Startups can apply for a pitching spot by messaging

Read more and register for tickets here (note that while tickets are free, there is a charge if you register but do not attend).

Future Scales and Bernstein’s Bar will hold a discussion evening on 10 December 2018 on how design can help restaurants and food businesses function more sustainably. Designer Alex Rosso will lead a workshop on ‘Design for Social Innovation in Food’.

Read more and book tickets here.