Sustainable Agriculture and Food

Sustainable Agriculture and Food

The Technology Strategy Board together with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is to bring the government, business and researchers together in a major initiative to stimulate the development of new technologies that will increase food productivity, while decreasing the environmental impact of the food and farming industries.

The Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform will see investment of up to £75 million over the next five years in innovative technological research and development in areas such as crop productivity, sustainable livestock production, waste reduction and management, and greenhouse gas reduction.

The World Bank has estimated that global production of cereal needs to increase by 50% and meat production by 85% by 2030 to feed a global rising population that is expected to increase from 6.7 billion currently to 8.3 billion by 2030. The UK population is forecast to increase from 61 million to 70 million over the same period.

Although the twentieth century saw huge increases in food output, the rate of productivity improvement in world cereals has declined recently and is not keeping pace with demand.

In addition, changes in the climate seem set to disrupt global food production more frequently in the future. As part of a global food supply chain, the UK will be affected by climate disruption within and beyond the EU. Changes in temperature and precipitation are expected to bring changes in crop and livestock disease patterns and volatility in world food markets. High food prices and food shortages can lead to social unrest, and food security is currently high on the agenda of many Governments around the world, including the UK's.

Population growth combined with increased pressures on farm production outputs creates a market opportunity for UK businesses in the supply chain.

It will not be possible to achieve the required increases in food production within legislative requirements, on less available land for food production while also mitigating GHG emissions using the existing techniques. New technology-based solutions are needed.

This new Innovation Platform focussed on Sustainable Agriculture and Food seeks to increase the productivity of crops and animals and, simultaneously decrease the environmental impact of the industry. It will focus on four interlinked areas:

  • Crop productivity including protection and nutrition
  • Sustainable livestock production
  • Waste reduction and management
  • GHG Reduction Technologies and Methodologies

The Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform remit includes agricultural production (crops and livestock), food processing and organic waste management (from farm-to-fork). Although the production of non-food crops is in scope, their subsequent processing and use in energy generation and non-food manufacturing is excluded. The programme includes technology development and adoption, product introduction, efficient use of resources and good farming and manufacturing practices.

Although it is not directly focused on food security, progress made on the platform will contribute positively to a more secure food supply. Similarly, whilst not a direct focus of the programme, projects should not have an adverse impact on food safety, on nutritional value, or on biodiversity.

The Innovation Platform will not address issues of consumer behaviour directly, although patterns of demand are clearly a key determinant of business activity and investment in the food supply chain and thus form part of the wider context to this work.


The Technology Strategy Board, in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Scottish Government recently launched a collaborative R&D competition (now closed)  with up to £15 million available to invest in projects focusing on the challenge of sustainable protein production.

View all our open competitions here.


Last updated on Monday 03 September 2012 at 15:25

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