Centre created to help industry meet food production challenge

Two leading UK institutes have joined forces with food retailer Waitrose to establish a new centre aimed at helping the UK farming and food sector meet the increasing number of challenges in food production and sustainability.

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, which trials vegetables for growers anually, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University have teamed up with the supermarket to create the Centre of Excellence for UK Farming (CEUKF).

The new centre is intended to provide a network of expertise for everyone involved in the food production supply chain, offering access to the best information and advice on developments in science, innovation and practical know-how.

The centre will link and interact widely with partners in applied research and industry, as well as policy-makers and stakeholders.

Waitrose agreed to seed-fund the establishment of the centre as part of its commitment to finding long-term solutions to food security, climate change and other issues affecting agricultural production.

Waitrose managing director Mark Price said: "Farmers and the food chain are fundamental to our response to the global challenge of feeding more people using fewer inputs and with reduced environmental impact.

"Securing a balance between increased productivity and more efficient use of natural resources will require new thinking and innovative approaches. That objective is fundamental to the centre."

IBERS director Professor Wayne Powell said: "The UK has long been at the forefront of agricultural science and has some of the most productive farming around.

"But we can do more to transfer that knowledge into action, to meet the challenges of global food security and address environmental issues such as climate change and conservation of resources. The CEUKF is committed to move in that direction."

CEUKF steering board chairman Sir Don Curry said the centre provided a practical response to high-level calls for the sustainable intensification of agriculture by translating cutting-edge science and practical know-how into meaningful guidance to meet the needs of farmers and food producers. "This is the kind of partnership I have been seeking for 10 years," he added.

Initial work on the CEUKF began in June 2010 and pilot research programmes are underway to benchmark the efficiency of UK lamb and wheat production, focused on key sustainability indicators such as resource use, greenhouse gas emissions and ecological diversity. Preliminary results will be announced later this year.


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