Speaking today (3 January 2018) at the Oxford Farming Conference, Professor Leon A. Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield University will call for a paradigm shift in funding strategies and research programmes in order to tackle food waste on a global scale.

Every year, UK households waste £12.5 billion on seven million tonnes of food and drink that is bought and subsequently discarded. This is according to a recent report entitled ‘From waste to resource productivity’ by Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Adviser.

Professor Terry will say that in order to address the global threat of food security, research needs to be directed at both increasing crop production and minimising waste. He will point out that emphasis has been put on increasing future crop production, with far less resource being channelled towards enabling both established and innovative food preservation technologies to reduce food waste.

In a recent paper entitled ‘Minimising food waste: a call for multidisciplinary research’ published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Cranfield University researchers say that assessing the global scale of food waste is challenging, with question marks over the extent and accuracy of post-harvest loss and waste data.

They also argue that there is a paucity of active research being conducted in areas where post-harvest fresh produce loss is greatest. For example,  Europe is one of the dominant areas for postharvest research, yet makes a relatively low contribution to global food loss. In Africa, which contributes approximately 18% of global postharvest food losses, they suggest the research base is too low across the continent, with the majority of research stemming from South Africa. Professor Terry argues that UK research funds should be used to address this imbalance.

Professor Leon A. Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield University, said: “The global threat to food security requires a dual-pronged global solution focused on increasing crop production and reducing food waste. However, across the world, we see much greater emphasis on research funding programmes that focus on increasing production rather than also improving preservation and reducing waste.

“If we are to address the global challenge of food security we need to see a paradigm shift in current funding strategies and research programmes that will encourage the development and implementation of collective solutions to better preserve and utilise food.”

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield

For the past 50 years, Cranfield has been contributing to enhancing natural capital and ensuring that global food systems are more resilient for the future. We are recognised worldwide by industry, government and academe for our research and teaching in plants, soil, water and air.

We believe that environmental problems can be alleviated through technological innovation and risk management.

Cranfield is a key partner in two of the four UK Government-sponsored Agri-tech Centres – Agri-Epi (Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre) and CHaP (Crop Health and Protection), with over £10 million invested in new infrastructure since 2017.

Our education, research and consultancy is enhanced by our world-class facilities including the National Reference Centre for Soils, which houses the largest collection of its kind in Europe and is recognised as the UK’s definitive source of national soils information, and our big data visualisation suite, which has tools to analyse big data collections including environmental resources from 280 countries/territories worldwide.

In 2017, Cranfield was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for research and education in large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources in the UK and worldwide, the first time in the Prize’s history that an award has been given for soil science.