The UKRI Agri-food for Net Zero Network+ (AFN Network+) has awarded more than £200,000 to projects which help address the challenge of reaching net zero through agri-food. The projects include a web app to help farmers forecast greenhouse gas emissions from their manure, a scheme to replace soya with faba beans in chicken feed and a plan to improve consumer understanding of alternative proteins. They are among sixteen innovative projects that have received funding.
The AFN Network+ is a three year project which was set up in 2022 with £5 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Its aim is to bring together UK researchers, industry leaders, government bodies and members of the public to explore effective ways to support industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental sustainability.
The UK’s agri-food industry produces around a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Given this significant contribution, it is one industry in which greenhouse gas emissions need to be addressed if the country is to meet its net zero goals by 2050.
The projects, which were awarded either £10k over 12 months or £50k over two years, bring together multidisciplinary teams, with academics working alongside food system stakeholders. Their scope ranges from farm to fork.
The projects being funded include one focused on consumer attitudes towards alternative protein, led by Toritseju Begho at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). Alternative protein sources, including plant-based and cultured meat, edible microalgae and insects, offer potential solutions to reduce the environmental impact of the agri-food sector. However, that potential relies heavily on consumer acceptance. The goal of the project is to improve the understanding of consumer preferences, attitudes, and behaviours, so that effective strategies can be developed to increase the consumption of more sustainable foods.
Another project, led by Ashraf Alkhtib at Nottingham Trent University, will explore replacing soya with faba beans in chicken feed. Chicken is the most popular meat in the UK with a lower carbon footprint than any other. However, its environmental impact could be further reduced if it didn’t rely on imported soya. The project aims to develop UK faba beans into a poultry feed material, potentially lowering the environmental cost of poultry meat production and also improving the resilience of the UK food supply chain.
Two projects, one which will examine the potential of digestate for indoor farms and another which will map the evidence around regenerative agriculture and net zero, were awarded at the AFN Network+’s Crucible workshop in June.
A full list of the projects funded and the teams involved can be found on the funding page of our website.
Advancing real change
Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Professor of Food Systems at the University of the West of England, and AFN Network co-lead, said: “We face a growing threat from climate change, and its impact on our food system. Our aim in setting up this Network was to bring researchers and stakeholders together to mobilise ideas and resources around the challenge of transitioning agri-food for the future.
“We’re very much looking forward to the insights from these projects and supporting them to advance real change in the food system as the UK transitions to net zero.”
Dr Kedar Pandya, Executive Director Cross-Council Programmes at EPSRC, part of UKRI, said: “To achieve net zero by 2050 there must be practical solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the agricultural food system.
“The sixteen projects announced today will address the sector’s challenges in reaching this ambitious target and explore effective ways to improve sustainability in our food system.
“By working across disciplines and with a variety of stakeholders, these projects will help to build a green future.”
Future funding and collaboration
The AFN Network+ will open another round of funding in 2024 for projects that help address the challenge of reaching net zero through agri-food. Proposals must include non-academic food system stakeholders, including farmers, growers, food manufacturers, dietitians, or policy-makers. Non-academic food system stakeholders interested in participating in future projects and meeting potential collaborators are encouraged to join our Network. Full details of next year’s funding round will be released in spring 2024.
Proudly powered by Weebly
UK Research has funded this Network+ with the support of these 4 councils:
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)