A new WRAP report has outlined the risks to the UK food system over the next 10 years if a “business unusual” approach to the way food is manufactured, sold and consumed is not embraced.
The ground breaking ‘Food Futures’ report, which was launched at WRAP’s annual conference last week, assesses 15 topics in the UK food system from farm to fork and outlines recommendations for actions by industry and government.
Increasing global demand for food and the pressure on the environment of meeting that demand, using traditional methods and ingredients, is unlikely to be sustainable, according to WRAP. Ensuring the UK has a diversified, sustainable supply of protein is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century, it said.
Two topics discussed in the report: new commercial models for sustainable aquaculture and alternative feeds and proteins offer significant potential to overcome this challenge.
Some of the risks and opportunities identified in the report that affect the whole industry are external including climate risks to food resilience and deep environmental and societal challenges like reducing food waste or tackling diet-related ill health.
While for the food chain the ability to realise future opportunities will depend on building skills to meet future food challenges, new supply chain collaborations and how quickly the benefits of new digital technology opportunities can be realised.
Three key trends that will shape the food system and reframe these issues include increasing challenges to food system resilience, an explosion in data-enabled technology and the alignment of public health, and environmental sustainability agendas.
The next 10 years could see changes in farming such as a growing appreciation of the benefits of adopting precision agriculture and other data-enabled technologies. Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) will use water, energy and fertilisers only where it is needed, optimising yield, production efficiencies and nutritional outcomes, reducing machinery and input costs by up to 75%.
For the supply chain technology will be key, WRAP said. Businesses could use a suite of technologies and practices for intelligent temperature control during manufacture and transportation, minimising carbon impact while improving quality, freshness and product life.
And it added that industry, and increasingly consumers, will have accurate data on where their ingredients and food is from and how to get the most from it.
One third of all food grown globally goes to waste, which WRAP says equates to one-in-four calories being lost.
Dr Liz Goodwin OBE, CEO at WRAP, said: “In the next 10 years we will be faced with challenges around feeding a growing population and nutritional security. Our ‘Food Futures’ report highlights how governments, businesses and we, as consumers, can turn these challenges into opportunities. By embracing the growth in data enabled technology and aligning healthy and environmentally sustainable diets we can nourish both the individual and the planet.”
The full report can be viewed here.