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Best Sustainable Product Award – Deliciously Yorkshire Taste Awards

As part of our continued support of The Deliciously Yorkshire Taste Awards, FixOurFood sponsored a new category in 2023. The Best Sustainable Product Award is judged in line with the three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental and social. We welcome entrants from all producers and invite them to submit evidence against the three pillars. Once the entries have been shortlisted, the entries are also judged on taste.

2023 winners, Acorn Dairy, stood out among so many quality entries with an impressive commitment to sustainability and of course fantastic flavour!

The team at Acorn Dairy, based near Darlington came out on top, with the judging panel noting: “It’s clear there is a lot of ground-breaking work going in the sector to reduce chemical inputs, increase the use of renewable energy, promote biodiversity, water quality and soil health as well as reducing emissions. Acorn Dairy and their Whole Milk entry are an exemplar of this, not only is it good for human and planetary health but it tastes delicious too!”

Entries for the 2024 awards are now open – Apply here

 

Yorkshire Stories of Sustainability

As part of the award we have created 3 films from the highest scoring entrants, The Yorkshire Pasta Company, Sloemotion Distillery and of course Acorn Dairy. The videos share more information about the impressive companies and also share future plans and concerns about the food system.

Links to the videos on our YouTube channel are below:

Acorn Dairy

 Sloemotion Distillery

The Yorkshire Pasta Company

 


Our mission to promote sustainability in the food supply chain continues to gain momentum through various knowledge exchange and outreach activities. Read about our recent updates on our research, initiatives and collaborations aimed at fostering awareness, innovation, and sustainable practices in the food sector.

Yorkshire Grain Alliance: Promoting Sustainable Grain Practices

The Yorkshire Grain Alliance has been at the forefront of addressing sustainability challenges in the grain supply chain. Ulrike Ehgartner’s work with the Alliance is focused on raising awareness and promoting the cultivation and use of diverse grain varieties, particularly in Yorkshire and its neighbouring regions. These efforts aim to benefit both people and the planet. Recently, the Alliance gathered for a site visit and strategy meeting at Side Oven Bakery, a key player in sustainable baking practices.

Ulrike recently participated in a “Pint of Science” event, where she facilitated dialogue and education around these important issues. The event highlighted the importance of sustainable grain practices and encouraged community involvement in addressing these challenges.

GrowItYork: Pioneering Urban Vertical Farming

Over the past three years, GrowItYork, an urban vertical farm based in Spark York and run by the FixOurFood team, has been exploring innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture. Our produce continues to flourish. We recently carried out a comprehensive evaluation, conducted by Ulrike Ehgartner and Alana Kluczkovski, involving semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, including independent food vendors, community food initiatives, and growing technology providers.

These interviews provided valuable insights into the collaboration dynamics and future prospects of GrowItYork. The findings are being discussed internally and will also be featured in upcoming research papers, contributing to the broader academic discourse on urban farming and sustainability.

Grow It York logo

Sustainable practices in Yorkshire Supply Chains

In collaboration with Professor Melanie Kreye from the University of York’s School for Business and Society (SBS), Ulrike Ehgartner and Bob Doherty are documenting the insights gained from our engagement with various Yorkshire food businesses. This research aims to explore the justice dimensions in both non-conventional and conventional supply chains and will be published in an academic paper. Our work underscores the importance of equity and fairness in sustainable food systems.

Future of Food Module: Engaging Students in Sustainability

The interdisciplinary “Future of Food” module at the University of York, designed with contributions from Ulrike Ehgartner, Bob Doherty, and Katherine Denby, offers a practical approach to understanding food systems. Through workshops on procurement, waste management, and food consumption habits, students engage hands-on in mapping the campus food system and critically evaluating its sustainability. This module leverages FixOurFood’s expertise to foster context-based learning and promote sustainable food practices among students.

Aquaponics in Schools: Hands-On Learning for a Sustainable Future

We are proud to announce that our paper, “Aquaponics in Schools: Hands-on Learning about Healthy Eating and a Healthy Planet,” has been accepted for publication in Nutrition Bulletin.

Link to the paper

Our innovative school initiative, a collaboration with Farm Urban, utilised portable aquaponic pods aligned with the national curriculum to engage students in food production and foster learning about sustainability, climate change, and healthy eating. The evaluation, based on teacher surveys, aquapod chart data, student blogs, postcards, and development team feedback, showed positive impacts on students’ environmental awareness and practical knowledge of sustainability and food production and consumption.

Figure 1: Aquapod images. (a) aquapod scheme showing (i) plants – most plants will grow in an aquaponic system but the easiest and quickest are leafy greens, such as basil, parsley, lettuce and kale, (ii) grow bed – is a soilless environment for plants to spread their roots. Plants live in net pots suspended above the water on a raft, making sure they get oxygen, water and nutrients to thrive, (iii) filter box – is where the bacteria live (microorganisms convert fish waste into the perfect plant food and keep water clear), (iv) fish – provide organic fertiliser through fish waste.

(b) photo of an actual aquapod with fish and leafy greens being grown.

Figure 1: Aquapod images

Ghana Partnership: Advancing Food System Research

Our collaboration with the YESI Fellows Scheme on the project “Leadership, logistics and health in the local leafy green supply chain: policy imperatives from Ghana and UK practice” is progressing well. We are collaborating with Kumasi Technical University and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). With visits scheduled in July to Ghana and September to the UK, we are mapping food systems in Kumasi, Ghana, to collect data and share insights. This exchange will foster mutual learning and strengthen our understanding of global food systems.

Addressing Livestock Industry Sustainability

Rebecca Lait has been actively sharing insights on sustainability challenges and unbalanced  power dynamics in the livestock industry through multiple presentations to both academic and non-academic audiences. These presentations, including those at the Pint of Science event, the Leeds and London sustainability conferences, and the University of Oxford’s livestock, environment and people conference, aim to raise awareness and promote sustainable practices within the industry.

Place-based Social Innovation

Ben Fletcher has completed extensive data collection on governance for local food system transformation, contributing to the development of his work on social innovation ecosystems. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of local and regional food strategy and policy development and implementation. Covering the connection between policy, finance, markets, human capital, support networks and culture, this research is actively contributing to ongoing conversations locally and regionally.

Investigating UK Community Food Provision

Additionally, Philip Hadley and Bob Doherty continue their research on the community food / food aid sector through the Fair Food Futures UK project led by Maria Bryant, furthering our understanding of food insecurity, alongside the organisational models and activities aimed at addressing it. We are currently analysing the key learnings from a year of research exploring the food support systems in Bradford and Tower Hamlets (East London), as well as with organisations at a national level. We are producing a series of policy briefings and the findings from the first year will be published in academic papers.

Philip and Bob are also working with Carol Wagstaff (FoodSEqual and University of Reading) as well as colleagues at Cranfield University, to explore why fresh produce supply to the community food / food aid sector is so variable. Through interviews with representatives from organisations across fresh produce supply chains, the research aims to arrive at policy and practice recommendations and the findings will be published in an academic paper.

Our work

We remain dedicated to advancing sustainable food systems through research, collaboration, and education. Stay tuned for more updates on our initiatives and findings.

For more information on our projects and collaborations, visit our outputs web page and subsystem web page.


The FixOurFood metrics team has recently released the latest revision of the FixOurFood Agrifood Calculator, an interactive tool to explore the effects of food system interventions on selected environmental and land use metrics.

This release includes the addition of a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) model, where Direct-Air Capture (DACCS) and Bioenergy (BECCS) are proposed as the main source for engineered sequestration of greenhouse gas emissions. A model for carbon sequestration from reforested land has also been incorporated. Parameters for the model can be used to control the ratio between coniferous and broadleaved trees used for reforestation, as well as the growth rate before maximum sequestration.

The main changes, however, are under the hood. This latest release presents a significant overhaul to the modelling framework used to construct the simulation pipeline. It is now fully based on the AgriFoodPy package, an open-source developed by the FixOurFood metrics team to aid on the development of simulations, data distribution and interoperability of internal and external agrifood models and tools.

AgriFoodPy allows a pipeline to be built modularly, in blocks of code which can be easily adjusted, replaced, or removed to set the model complexity. This approach significantly speeds up the development process and can be used to include models developed by other scientists.

AgriFoodPy is an open-source project, meaning all of the code is publicly available and open for contributions from the community. An open approach is a fundamental step towards transparent policy-making, as all the modelling decisions can be easily accessed. Results can be replicated and scrutinised for an enhanced discussion around food system transformations.

A paper describing the AgriFoodPy package and its methodology, led by Dr. Juan Pablo Cordero and Professor Sarah Bridle, has just been published in the Journal of Open Source Software.


In March 2024, Will Quince MP was appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, to lead an independent review to enhance public sector food procurement.

With the support of a bespoke Defra team, Will looked at how to increase the impact and reach of the existing Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) and explored other ways to improve public sector food and catering policy. In addition, he sought to identify ways to boost animal welfare and environmental standards and make public sector food supply chains more accessible to SMEs and farmers. It is worth noting that the GBSF contain elements of mandatory and good practice but are not applicable across the whole of the public sector and have not been monitored officially since their introduction in 2011. Although a consultation process took place with a view to updating the GBSF, new standards have yet to be published.

Will and the Defra team spoke to public sector procurement professionals and government departments and reviewed procurement processes and international case studies as well as the ‘Food for Life Served Here’ accreditation scheme. Furthermore, they invited members of the Transforming UK Food Systems Programme, NGOs and trade associations to a rountable to discuss food procurement. KPMG were appointed to research and provide qualitive insights on ‘buying personas and drivers for decision making’.

Six themes emerged, for which the review gave recommendations:

Barriers to compliance

Findings: There is confusion around expectation and which standards should be applied across the public sector along with a lack of consistency in monitoring and compliance.

The review recommends: That government unifies and mandates standards across the public sector (with exemptions where necessary), publishes the updated GBSF, encourages innovation, best practice and continual improvement – particularly through school accreditation to Food For Life Served Here.

Monitoring and compliance

Findings: With no routine monitoring of compliance with the GBSF or implementation, there is little evidence for their effectiveness or implementation. Clarity was lacking on what is needed for compliance, with the burden of proof on the supplier, and difficulty evidencing for the procurer.

The review recommends: That government develops metrics to assess compliance with the GBSF and through a mapping exercise identifies what data is needed and why, introduces centralised data monitoring and clear reporting structures for reporting to government.

Making public sector food procurement systems more accessible for SMEs, farmers and growers

Findings: Public procurement should be more accessible to a range of sources including SMEs and farmers. The lack of understanding of how to supply the public sector, and complexity of the tendering process are barriers.

The review recommends: That government provides a support service for both buyers and suppliers to navigate and access public sector procurement contracts. This would be akin to the service which the Department for Business and Trade provides on exports.

Promoting best practice

Findings: Public food procurement contracts often require large quantities of aggregated products and services which SMEs and farmers are unlikely to be able to offer. Contract design broken into smaller parts would be more practical for SMEs and farmers. More flexible systems, such as Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS), would allow SMEs and farmers to bid for what they are able to provide when they can.

The review recommends: Government encourages flexibility and accessibility within procurement systems for SMEs and farmers as well as procurers. In addition, that government promotes best practice and accessibility, and mandates that contracts be published on ‘Contracts Finder’ on gov.uk. It also recommends that government reviews the approach taken by the Schools Fruit & Veg Scheme to supply 4-7 year olds, to ensure it too maximises access. Finally, that government sets sector-specific target spend on SMEs and farmers where appropriate and assesses where these add most value.

Supporting practical access to public procurement

Findings: Even where organisations make procurement systems more accessible to SMEs and farmers, practical barriers for suppliers will likely remain, such as logistics, capacity, and infrastructure. Access will not significantly change without also addressing these.

The review recommends: That government provides £1-2 million of grant funding to facilitate local collaborations between SMEs and farmers and procurers. In addition, that Defra runs a regional pilot or partners with existing collaborations to help SMEs and farmers get involved in public procurement.

Funding

Findings: Little will change if public sector organisations cannot afford it.

The review recommends: That government increases and ringfences free school meal funding to reflect inflationary pressures, prepare for expansion of the GBSF across all public sector settings, and support future take-up of Food for Life Served Here.

 

Whilst FixOurFood is a supporter of these set of welcome recommendations, they could be strengthened to take into account both the quality of food provision and the need for food system change to ensure food produced and consumed should be both healthy and sustainable.

Read the report in full

 


On 7 and 8 May, researchers from the FixOurFood (led by the University of York) and H3 (healthy soils, healthy food, healthy people led by the University of Sheffield) research projects came together with farmers and allied organisations to ‘Share Experiences of Regenerative Agriculture’. The event was supported by funds from the Transforming UK Food System Programme, which both projects are part of, and held at the University of Leeds farm and Hazelwood Castle. On day one, attendees heard about the research being carried out in Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire and had an opportunity to tour the Regenerative Agriculture trial at the University of Leeds research farm. In the field there was an opportunity to share experiences, with the Leeds research team highlighting the challenges they had faced this spring with terminating the cover crop and establishing spring barley. Other topics of conversation included how to measure soil carbon accurately, the challenges of direct drilling this year given the wet weather, how best to manage weeds and volunteers, why producers won’t take blends of cereal crops and how this can/should change, the benefits of using cover crops and organic amendments. All in all it was a lively and enthusiastic discussion that set us up for the following day at Hazelwood Castle.

 

On day two, we started by hearing about other research being carried out across the UK on regenerative agriculture in research institutes, by farmer groups and agri-businesses. This was followed by a session on looking at the main goals and opportunities of regenerative agriculture before a session on challenges and barriers. Attendees worked in groups to rank what they thought were the main goals and opportunities and challenges and barriers. After lunch there was a session that looked at the lived experience of using regenerative practices on different soil types and identified what worked well and not so well! Throughout the day attendees were asked to post any
contentious issues in regenerative agriculture into a post box and these were compiled into 15 main areas – with the use of glyphosate being identified as the number one most contentious issue. Other contentious issues included lack of a definition for regenerative agriculture, the pros and cons of certification of regenerative agriculture, and how to avoid greenwashing. The last session of the day was a panel and open discussion that covered ways in which farmers, scientist and allied organisation could come together to carry out research that supports the transition to regenerative agriculture and to provide evidence for farmers and policy makers.

 

To find out more about our research into Regenerative Agriculture, visit our website.

To be kept up to date with our research, please join our mailing list.


The FixOurFood Hybrid Business team has been awarded an YESI International Fellows Scheme 2023/2024

We are thrilled to announce an exciting new  collaboration. Three members of the FixOurFood hybrid business team have won a YESI fellowship grant which allows for an international partnership with the University of Kumasi in Ghana, marking a significant milestone in our mission to revolutionise food systems worldwide.

The UK team is led by Prof Peter Ball alongside a dynamic team of researchers, including Dr Ulrike Ehgartner, Dr Ariadne Kapetanaki of the School for Business and Society , and Alana Kluczkovski, from Biology Department at the University of York. The prestigious team in Ghana includes Dr Emelia Darko Adzimah, Dr Meshach Awuah-Gyawu, and Prof Isaac Ofosu from the University of Kumasi. The project is titled “Leadership, logistics and health in the local leafy green supply chain: policy imperatives from Ghana and UK practice”

This innovative collaboration aims to dissect critical aspects of leafy green supply chains through robust stakeholder interaction, with a primary goal of generating policy imperatives to foster sustainable, resilient, and secure food systems. By integrating research on logistics, supply chain management, and health considerations, we endeavour to understand barriers and enablers for the provision of nutritious foods while minimising losses.

Recognizing the importance of effective leadership and governance, our project underscores the need for coordinated efforts in implementing sustainable practices and policies supported by stakeholders.

Aligned with YESI Research themes, our initiative serves as a beacon of emergent activities in local food systems, offering mutual benefits to communities in Yorkshire and Kumasi. Through international and  interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge exchange, we aspire to foster a culture of learning among researchers of diverse backgrounds and career stages.

Updates on our journey towards a brighter, more sustainable future for global food systems are coming soon.


Read about Beckie Lait’s experience presenting her research at two sustainability conferences in Leeds and London

Interview carried out with the Environmental Sustainability at York (ESAY) department at The University of York

 

Beckie Lait, who is currently undertaking a PhD in Management with FixOurFood at the University of York, recently presented her research at the annual Student Sustainability Research Conference (SSRC24) in Leeds.

Beckie’s excellent abstract submission was ranked in the top three presentations out of over 100 applications and, as a result, she was also given the opportunity to present at the London Student Sustainability Research Conference (LSSRC) at Imperial College London, which took place earlier in February.

We asked Beckie to tell us more about her research and experience presenting at these conferences. Read below to find out what she said:

Tell us a bit about your research.

After graduating with an undergraduate and master’s degree in Theoretical Physics from the University of Manchester, I am now undertaking a PhD with the University of York and the TUKFS’s FixOurFood programme to apply my physics education to researching the impact of the food system on the climate crisis and other pressing social and environmental issues.

With animal agriculture using 83% of farmland globally, while supplying only 18% of calories, significant climate change mitigations can be achieved through livestock and meat reduction strategies. Despite an urgent need to address this, existing research has reported cases of decision-making proceedings being overly shaped by influential participants. By bridging a gap between these causes of climate change and some of the barriers that hinder transformational change in the food system, my PhD research aims to investigate the power dynamics in the UK meat and livestock system in order to enable more positive transformations to occur.

By mapping out key interconnected relationships, perspectives and flows of resources, and analysing contestations around meat and livestock reduction strategies, my research will aim to identify key leverage points in the system that can accelerate the understanding of the actions that would contribute to a more sustainable, fair and healthy food system.

Tell us about your experience presenting at the conferences in London and Leeds.

In February and March, I had a really wonderful experience presenting at the London and Leeds sustainability conferences. They were inspiring events, full of rich discussions, engaging presentations and inspiring key notes. Receiving feedback on my work from a range of students, stakeholders, researchers and more, each of whose own topics delve into all things sustainability, was refreshing and invaluable.

What have you learned from these experiences?

From presenting posters and giving presentations at these conferences, I feel that I have learned how to more effectively engage with others. By learning from others and engaging in a range of discussions, I feel as though I have learned how to better convey my research and tailor my explanations to suit a range of academics, fellow students, stakeholders and more.

Given that the audience for each presentation consisted of individuals whose perspectives varied greatly in some ways and were very aligned in others, it was valuable to learn about how to find common ground and use this to continually learn from each other and also to develop the depth and nuance of my own work.

What do you hope to do in the future after you have completed your PhD?

I hope to utilise my research and the knowledge I am developing about the way that the food system works, its drivers, its barriers and its complexities to accelerate change to a more fair, healthy and sustainable system. While I am not yet sure of the specific role that I want to be in in order to achieve this, my aim will be that it can make a real and significant impact on the world around us.

A huge thank you to Beckie for sharing her sustainability PhD project and conference experience with us!

 

ESAY NEWS | POSTED ON MONDAY 25 MARCH 2024