The food system (FS) is a complex web of production, delivery, consumption and health; it encompasses the process that it takes to put food on our plate from farm to fork and is heavily influenced by many factors such as the choices we make and the demands we put on the planet.
The current food system is not fit for purpose. There is an urgent need, not to just change elements of it, but to transform it to a regenerative food system (RFS). A RFS spirals up environmental, social and economic benefits with approaches that aim to build beyond sustainable levels. It uses processes that try to find ways of providing food and nourishment for all, improving public health and prosperity while replenishing and restoring the planet.
So what is FixOurFood doing? Ensuring that this transformation takes place is a huge challenge and we all have a part to play; our contribution is to transform the Yorkshire food system. Yorkshire is of sufficient size to understand the integrated and complex dynamics of the FS while being sufficiently bounded. Through collaboration with our core partners and multiple stakeholders from across the region, we are using the powerful Three Horizon futures tool to inform our thinking.
This tool is helping us set our goals in three specific research areas:
- Regenerative Farming: Yorkshire contains 13-17% of the UK’s crop production area (for cereals, oilseed rape, potatoes, field vegetables and glasshouse production), with 10-14% of the UK’s livestock headcount (cattle, sheep and poultry). The variety of farming systems within the region and the diversity of soil and land cover combined with networks of innovative farmers, makes it an excellent test bed for more regenerative approaches.
- Hybrid business models: The Yorkshire region incorporates diverse elements of food production, supply and consumption. It has the highest concentration of food and drink businesses in the UK and our aim is to improve their social and environmental impact.
- Sustainable and healthy food for children: Yorkshire is ethnically diverse with significant social and economic deprivation and ill health. Many areas show some of the worst income deprivation statistics affecting children in England.
FixOurFood is one of four research consortia funded by the £47.5m ‘Transforming UK Food System, Strategic Priorities Fund Programme’ delivered by UKRI, in partnership with the Global Food Security Programme, BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, Defra, DHSC, PHE, Innovate UK and FSA.
Transformational change is more than adjusting or improving existing systems. It includes fundamental pattern shifts of activities, approaches and beliefs, creating new interactions between values, nature, technology and behaviours.
A regenerative food system is one that spirals up environmental, social and economic benefits using approaches that aim to reduce harm and build beyond sustainable levels. Regenerative approaches aim to provide food and nourishment for all, improving public health and prosperity while replenishing and restoring the planet.
Three Horizons is a simple and intuitive tool that helps support dialogue, planning and action to achieve transformed futures. It helps us to explore which parts of our food system are no longer fit for purpose, identify visionary and more viable futures, and recognise the ways emerging trends, ideas and actions can make those futures a reality.