Global Food Crisis Tackled at Farm491’s Innovation Forum

On the 5th November, Farm491 held a half-day innovation forum entitled ‘New World Farming,’ as part of Bristol’s Technology Festival week. The AgriTech business incubator and innovation facilitator held the event as a call to action on problems facing the UK agri-food sector. They brought together a range of people to debate the challenges facing agriculture, including industry innovators, technologists, academics, farmers and businesses.

The event was held at the Engine Shed in Bristol with Head of Farm491, Luke Halsey, commencing proceedings by asking how the current global food crisis was going to be solved, and introducing the themes of the event – which were farmer equity, environmental sustainability and food integrity.

Farm491’s Outreach Manager, Sarah Carr, followed on, describing how farmers often face challenges out of their control and proposed that by empowering them with the right technology, we could promote an equitable supply chain.

Professor Louise Manning of the Royal Agricultural University then went on to give a fascinating presentation exploring the topic of food integrity, highlighting the fraud issues of food products and processes, where the labelling is not accurately describing what they are, e.g. the ham on a pizza actually being turkey. She said, “Across the world, there are more people living in towns and cities now than rural areas, so there is a disconnect between them and how their food is produced. They can only use the information available on packaging and labels, which makes them vulnerable to fraud, because they have to take what they read at face value.”

Luke Halsey of Farm491 completed the debate by discussing environmental sustainability, and how complex issues, such as reducing the 53.5 gigatons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cannot be solved by a simplistic solution such as to stop eating beef. He said, “There is no single story in agriculture at the moment, it’s about where you’re doing it, how you’re doing it – so tech needs to play a role in solving these complexities.” He then went on to discuss how we need more solutions to sustain food production.

The event also included presentations from a range of innovative AgriTech companies: Grow Bristol, Smartbell, Pre-O, Cellular Agriculture, Ekogea, and LettUs Grow, who were also asked lots of thought-provoking questions by the audience.

Robert Winkler from Kero Development Partners attended the event, commented, “Events like this help investors like us to get a view on the direction of travel in the farming world, so that we can make more informed choices about the teams we choose to fund.”

Law firm Ashfords LLP, who are nationally recognised for their AgriTech expertise, sponsored the event.