Five new interdisciplinary research projects have been awarded a portion of £9 million to help increase the resilience of UK food systems. The projects integrate biological, environmental and social sciences to help ensure food security in the face of evolving worldwide markets, environmental and demographic changes, and threats posed by pests and diseases.

Projects including research into protecting crops from pests and increasing tolerance to adverse weather conditions will share the funding 

The research looks to optimise resilience, productivity and sustainability across the food system, ensure resilient supply chains and influence food choices to relieve pressure on global food systems. The successful projects will focus specifically on increasing crop and livestock tolerance to weather, emerging diseases, price volatility and other environmental and social shocks and include the development of models that can be used by the food security community globally. 

Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “From disease protection to improving management of global food shocks, these research projects will help tackle the serious threat of food shortages. Supporting these exciting and innovative solutions will help the UK food industry be better prepared for external factors and help provide food security to millions around the world.”

Professor Tim Benton, Global Food Security Champion, said: “Stability of supply and access is an essential element of food security. Ensuring our food systems are resilient is therefore crucial, especially as the world is changing rapidly – whether from the weather or from social and political change.”

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “This investment will help ensure that the UK food system is primed to face challenges in a changing climate by building resilience at all levels. By working together BBSRC, ESRC, NERC and the Scottish Government can help to ensure that UK research delivers global benefits for society and the economy.”

The research programme was driven forward by the UK’s Global Food Security programme, with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Scottish Government. 

The funded projects are:

  • Increasing resilience to water-related risks in the UK fresh fruit and vegetable system
    Lead PI: Dr Tim Hess, Cranfield University, in collaboration with researchers from University of East Anglia, East Malling Research and University of Oxford - £1,291,662.31 (fEC)
  • Resilience of the UK food system to global shocks (RUGS)
    Lead PI: Professor Mark Rounsevell, University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with researchers from SRUC - £1,004,734.09 (fEC)
  • PIGSustain: Predicting the impacts of intensification and future changes on UK pig industry resilience
    Lead PI: Dr Lisa Collins, University of Lincoln, in collaboration with researchers from University of Reading, University of Leeds and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - £2,102,293.73 (fEC)
  • IKnowFood: Integrating knowledge for food systems resilience
    Lead PI: Professor Bob Doherty, University of York, in collaboration with researchers from Universities of Manchester and Liverpool- £3,425,141.70 (fEC)
  • Securing the future of the UK’s favourite fruit
    Lead PI: Dr Daniel Bebber, University of Exeter, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oxford - £1,228,612.93 (fEC)