Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Reducing waste in the food chain

The aim of this strategic priority is to address issues of food waste through increased efficiencies or interventions which prevent wastage, at any point in the food chain, from source to stomach. It also looks at potential alternative uses for food waste.

Budget:
up to £2 million for projects in this priority area through a standard research grant from BBSRC
Duration:
the standard research grant is an ongoing scheme - projects can last up to five years
Partners involved:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

The aim of this priority is to address issues of food waste through increased efficiencies or interventions which prevent wastage, at any point in the food chain, from source to stomach.

This priority also includes the potential alternative uses for food waste, for example:

  • using waste in bioprocessing
  • using waste to make biofuel
  • biologically repurposing waste into value-added products, such as bioplastic made using fish skins, and vegan leather made using fruit waste.

Scientific scope

The priority includes research using novel biological agri-engineering approaches to:

  • reduce waste through better manipulation of primary production to meet the needs of processors, retailers or consumers: for example, optimising product quality or harvest timing
  • improve production efficiency through better understanding and management of relevant biological processes: for example, sub-clinical infections, maturation and chemical treatments such as fertiliser and pesticides
  • reduce losses during harvest, transport, manufacture or storage, without detrimental effects on product quality or safety
  • reduce post-harvest waste through better understanding and management of relevant biological processes: for example, prevention and early detection of spoilage, understanding microbial-food interactions, and controlling post-harvest maturation
  • make safe and effective use of food-related bio-waste, from any stage in the food chain: for example, in alternative feed streams, as smart ingredients, from novel decontamination methods, or microbial digestion
  • reduce, recover or re-use inedible co-products from food production.

This priority includes novel research to reduce waste from:

  • food crops
  • livestock
  • aquaculture
  • microbial food sources.

It also includes research addressing efficiencies both:

  • on-farm, including planting, and pre and post-harvest losses
  • post-farm gate, including during transport, storage, manufacturing, retail and in the home.

This priority also includes underpinning science that relates to the priority, where direct relevance can be clearly demonstrated.

What the priority does not include

This priority excludes work on refrigeration, non-bioactive packaging, transport logistics, producer and consumer behaviour, and food economics.

Outputs

Research will inform future strategies for adapting the food system to be more efficient and sustainable as part of our wider strategy to deliver more sustainable, safe, healthy and affordable food.

Impact

It is anticipated that applicants proposing research under this priority area should demonstrate translation opportunities to the relevant industrial sectors. Where applicable, proposals should have due regard to the likely impact and uptake of their solution within the agri-food industry and any regulatory hurdles they may face.

Why we're doing it

The food production system is under increasing stress, both from an increase in global demand for food and from pressures on production (for example, competition for land and water, environmental change, weeds, pests and pathogens, and soil degradation).

There will be more than a 50% rise in global demand for food by 2050.

Globally it is estimated that over a third of food produced is lost or wasted, which is estimated to be over 15 million tonnes a year in the UK alone. In addition, there are pre-harvest losses due to disease or sub-optimal agri-ecosystems management.

Although food waste will never be reduced to zero, this priority is an important component of delivering global food security and our commitment to reducing waste in the food chain.  Waste reduction alone will not address the projected future food deficit.

Food waste also has a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and is predicted to be responsible for roughly 10% of GHG currently, and so tackling food waste is an essential factor in reaching net zero.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Funding opportunities

This is one of BBSRC’s priority areas for our standard research grant. You can apply at any time.

Standard (sometimes known as ‘responsive’) funding opportunities are open to a wide range of research and approaches within BBSRC’s remit.

Find out more about applying for funding, what to include in your application, and animal use in research.

Who to contact

Emma Markham

Email: emma.markham@bbsrc.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 413365

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