N8 Agrifood Global project launches at University of York


A major £3.3 million research project into global food system resilience has launched at the University of York.

World-leading speakers, including the Head of Sustainability at Sainsbury’s, took part in a panel debate on global food security on Thursday 8 June at the York Management School. The event was part of the N8 Agrifood resilience programme.

IKnowFood, funded by the Global Food Security Programme, is a collaborative project led by the University of York in partnership with Professor Bruce Grieve and Dr Krikor Ozanyan of the University of Manchester and Professor Jason Halford of the University of Liverpool.

Working to deepen our understanding of the UK and global food systems, the research team collaborated with farmers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to understand what can be done to maintain stable levels of nutritious food supply.

The project is supported by the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI) and the N8 Research Partnership’s AgriFood programme, which is collaborative body that combines world-leading crop and livestock research with expertise in social sciences in a single research initiative.

Bob-Doherty-photo-e1490951060506-480x480Bob Doherty, Professor of Marketing at the York Management School and project lead, said: “The UN expects global demand for food to increase by 60 per cent by 2050, driven largely by population growth and changing dietary patterns among burgeoning middle classes in China, India and other large developing countries.

“At the same time, food production is under severe pressure from climate change, extreme weather, water depletion, soil degradation, resource conflict and political instability. These pressures are present alongside escalating problems of obesity, nutritional deficiency and diet-related health problems.”

IKnowFood researchers aim to develop practical tools to increase food resilience through four research strands:

  • Farmers, scientists and engineers will work together to create new technologies that enable farmers to detect crop disease early on, and identify the best time to harvest
  • A new database of key food commodity supply chains will be established to support retailers and manufacturers. This will combine trade statistics, social and environmental risk assessments, company data and regulatory and governance information to inform business decisions.
  • Health scientists, psychologists and computer scientists will investigate consumer beliefs and values, and why different population groups make different food choices. This will inform the creation of mobile apps, websites and other forms of communication designed to persuade consumers of healthy and sustainable choices.
  • A forum for industry, consumer and research bodies will be established to create a food system resilience network to enable data-sharing and the testing of practical tools across the food industry

Professor Doherty added: “We believe that different parts of the food chain – from farmers to supermarkets to policy makers – all need to have an opportunity to share ideas and insights if we are to develop a unified understanding of food resilience.

“IKnowFood will provide the academic expertise and analysis to underpin these discussions, opening the possibility of new opportunities for building a more sustainable approach to food system resilience.”​