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UKRI announces new Quality and Food Loss Network

The potato, a focus of the food waste network, is featured in this exclusive illustration by artist Karen Green as plant of the month for International Year of Plant Health 2020.
  • New 3 year £500k network to cut food waste and improve quality in horticultural and potato crops

Globally, over one third of food produced across the whole food chain is wasted. In the UK, 51% of the food wasted is lost before it even reaches consumers, during either the agriculture, post-harvest, distribution or processing stages (ref 1). A significant proportion of food loss relates to the inherent physiology of the crops, poor control of post-harvest biology, and the efficacy and appropriateness of the control systems applied.

A new UK network that aims to use bioscience research to address this significant food loss is launched today by UKRI’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Jointly-led by Prof Carol Wagstaff from the University of Reading and Prof Leon Terry from Cranfield University, the network will stimulate links between academics and industry, attract a new cohort of early career researchers, and commission a diverse range of projects.

Professor Carol Wagstaff, University of Reading said:

“The sad fact is that fruit and vegetable waste accounts for the largest proportion of all food not being eaten in the UK. Fruit and veg is a major component in a healthy diet so this new funding is a helpful boost to support research to ensure that more of the food we grow ends up being consumed.”

“The aim of the proposed Quality and Food Loss Network for Horticulture is to act as the leading collective voice for the UK horticultural and postharvest research community. We look forward to working alongside a really wide range of researchers in innovative areas as well as policy makers and industrial partners to help them turn research into benefits for consumers.”

Professor Leon Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield University added:

“Cranfield University has a long history of reducing postharvest food losses and as such we are delighted to be leading this network with UKRI and University of Reading. The Network will allow us to better harness our national scientific talent to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve per capita global food waste and reduce food losses.”

Membership is free and open to all researchers throughout the UK, who will be able to apply for funds to pump-prime new collaborations that develop research ideas and solutions with relevance to industry. Its outputs will attract researchers from multiple disciplines to apply novel expertise to the challenges facing businesses from across the entire supply-chain while developing the next generation of researchers to address food security.

Karen Lewis, Executive Director of Innovation at BBSRC said:

“Bioscientists in the UK and around the world can play a vital role in meeting the challenge of cutting food waste. Through this new network BBSRC will link science and business to propose and analyse new approaches to tackle this key issue. Its outputs will be part of a global effort to address food security.”

Amanda Collis, Executive Director of Science at BBSRC added:

“The BBSRC Quality and Food Loss Network is a great opportunity to bring together the academic and industrial horticulture communities. The network will provide leadership to tackle an issue which is central to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, by reducing food loss through improving horticultural crop quality. Research to reduce pre-consumer food waste will be essential to improving the productivity and resilience of the UK food system. The outputs of this network will advance BBSRC’s mission to enhance food security while strengthening the agri-economy.”

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UK Research and Innovation

  1. WRAP. Understanding out of home consumer food waste.

Header image: The potato, a focus of the food waste network, is featured in this exclusive illustration by artist Karen Green as plant of the month for International Year of Plant Health 2020, see more information here.

Tags: press release waste food food security