Achieving a net zero food system requires urgent collaboration, according to EIT Food event
To transition to a net zero food system, we must work together to drive impact in areas such as regenerative agriculture and sustainable food manufacturing.
On 12th September, EIT Food hosted an event to explore how our food system can achieve net zero targets, whilst continuing to feed the growing global population. The event focused on how we can fund and collaborate on activities in regenerative agriculture and food manufacturing to reduce carbon emissions in food production.
Key takeaways from the event
- Collaboration across the food value chain is key to achieving net zero emissions in food production and EIT Food can help to facilitate connections in the agrifood sector.
- Data is a valuable tool to measure emissions in our food system and it can help food producers to progress towards net zero targets.
- There are already net zero solutions that have been developed for the agrifood industry, however it is important to enable these to grow and scale into commercial innovations.
Why do we need to achieve net zero emissions in food manufacturing and regenerative agriculture?
It is essential to achieve a net zero food system because food production is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and these GHG emissions can be attributed to the way we produce, process and package food (United Nations, 2021), which puts pressure on food producers to adopt more sustainable practices.
At our event, Richard Vecqueray, CEO of Map of Ag and Dr Ian Noble, VP R&D – Research, Analytical and Productivity at Mondelez presented how we can achieve net zero emissions in food manufacturing and regenerative agriculture.
Richard Vecqueray discussed the importance of working in partnership with farmers and suppliers to reduce emissions in food production and explained why data is key in driving the transition to net zero practices. For example, Map of Ag’s global data platform collects farm and agrifood sector data that is shared in a standardised way, to help users to make informed decisions about what to do to reduce emissions during production.
Dr Ian Noble of Mondelez presented examples of how food manufacturing can reduce emissions. Although, manufacturing accounts for only 6% of UK food and drink emissions, the sector should transition to carbon-neutral where possible. For example, decarbonising heat and electricity would reduce manufacturing emissions by up to 95% (Food and Drink Federation, 2021). Many solutions to decarbonising energy already exist, such as using natural gas in procedures such as pasteurisation and evaporation or sustainably sourced electricity for refrigeration.
According to Dr Ian Noble, adopting an end-to-end design is key. By considering where energy can be conserved throughout each stage of food vale chain and informing consumers as to how they can converse energy at home, the sector can take huge steps forward to reducing emissions.
Is achieving net zero emissions in food manufacturing reliant on achieving net zero emissions in agriculture?
Our speakers discussed ways we can achieve net zero emissions within food manufacturing and agriculture from different perspectives. Having a diverse panel with experts representing farmers, startups and industry was important to understand the different opportunities and challenges faced by food producers and innovators when it comes to reducing emissions. It was suggested that farming and food manufacturing are interdependent because net zero cannot be achieved without sharing knowledge and expertise with other stakeholders across the food value chain.
A common theme throughout the panel discussion was that collaboration between stakeholders across the food value chain is crucial to achieving our net zero goals. Although businesses must be competitive to be profitable, stakeholders should be encouraged to share innovations solutions to reducing emissions, to help food production as a whole to be more efficient.
How can regenerative agriculture help us to achieve net zero targets?
Regenerative agriculture is fast becoming a popular farming method in food production because it is associated with benefits such as improved biodiversity and nutrient-enriched soil. The farming method has potential to achieve net zero targets, however it does come with its own set of challenges from financial investment to the need to adapt to the land.
Representatives from UK agritech centres, shared insights on new and upcoming regenerative agriculture solutions. Rebecca Lewis, Head of New Business and Proposals at Agri-Epi Centre spoke about how technology can help within regenerative agriculture, such as for data collection and automation. For example, they have developed a suite of technologies that automate monitoring of wildflowers, pollinators, and birds to recommend actions to enhance biodiversity on farms.
Rebecca Geraghty, Chief Commercial Officer at Agrimetrics, presented other types of services to enable regenerative agriculture. For example, they have created a platform called “regenagri” which helps farmers to collect and monitor on-farm data and provide an automated response of recommendations to facilitate the transition to regenerative practices.
Agritech centres like Agrimetrics and Agri-EPI Centre help agri-businesses to adopt regenerative farming practices by developing technologies that fast-track the reduction of emissions on-farm.
New innovations changing the future of food
Aside from agri-tech centres, startups are also at the forefront of developing innovative solutions that can help our food system to transition to net zero. As we explored the pathway to net zero, we heard from three startups who had the opportunity to pitch their companies and share how they are helping to reduce net zero emissions.
Introducing EIT Food startups at our event
FoodSquared - A b2b food tech company that enables the next generation of plant- based shellfish starting with shrimp. A memorable comment made is that the carbon impact of their plant-based shrimp is 6x lower than eating a traditional shrimp.
Abi Aspen, Co-Founder of FoodSquared said: “The EIT food event at the NCC was an amazing day filled to the brim with knowledgeable people dedicated to making waves in the world of food. I was given the opportunity to pitch and be a panellist on the day with people from a range of startups, SMEs and larger companies which made for an engaging conversation. The day enabled me to make some great contacts and we are looking forward to the next event!”
Kiana Agriculture - New generation biofertilizers for regenerative and climate-smart agriculture. Soil degradation and climate crisis is a problem within the food industry, however to lower net zero emissions, Kiana Earth and Kiana Climate are technologies offered to protect plants from extreme temperatures and to help with soil degradation.
Sanem Argin, CEO at Kiana Agriculture said: “I am very glad that I had the opportunity to attend this event. Net zero goals were discussed from different perspectives. I strongly believe that net zero goals can only be achieved by a collective effort and by pitching Kiana Agriculture’s solutions, I had the chance to make new connections for collaboration!”
SomaTech - Helping food companies be circular & sustainable by inventing new ingredients to use in food, such as their fermented ingredient SomaMeal, as well as offering a fermentation technology.
Tony Callaghan, CEO at SomaTech said: “We were privileged to pitch our company at this event full of inspiring people from Science and Industry working to build a more resilient and sustainable food system.”
How can we work together to create a net zero food system?
While individual organisations are developing net zero solutions, our event expressed the importance of working together on solutions where possible, to fast-track and scale innovations across the industry. During our event, we announced the launch of EIT Food’s new impact funding framework which is looking for collaborative programmes and individual projects that can help us to progress towards a net zero food system. We understand that to make the food system more sustainable for people and planet, we cannot do this alone and therefore we want to work with our growing community to drive impact right across the food system.
Our Impact Funding Framework has launched in September 2023 and will fund proposals into 2025. We are looking for proposals from consortia that support EIT Food’s 3 missions: Healthier Lives through Food, A Net Zero Food System and a Fair and Resilient Food System and our short-term priority areas: regenerative agriculture, protein diversification and food packaging and labelling.
Let’s create a better food system together
Our event brought together over 60 people across the agrifood industry to educate one another and share ideas about how we can fund and collaborate on activities to achieve a net zero food system. We believe the event helped to bring key stakeholders together to inspire further collaboration within and outside our EIT Food community.
Jayne Brookman, Chief Partnership Officer, EIT Food said: “It was great to learn more about the work already underway from stakeholders across the food system in bringing down our emissions. The panels also helped us understand what approaches might be best to use for future progression towards Net Zero and highlighted the need for urgency in our responses.”