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£7M public funding available for research to deliver better fruit and veg

Visit the Global Food Security website

9 February 2012

A new research initiative launched today (09 February) aims to bring academic researchers together with industry in order to deliver bigger yields of better quality fruits and vegetables for the consumer through more sustainable farming practices.

Fruits and vegetables are a vitally important part of a healthy diet. Increasing yields and reducing waste will be crucial if we are to ensure global food security, providing a healthy, nutritious and affordable diet to a growing global population.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will be providing up to £7M funding via the Horticulture and Potato Initiative for research projects with both an academic and an industrial partner. Additional funding will be provided by the industrial partners themselves and by the Scottish Government and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

One of the areas where the Initiative will focus is on helping growers adapt to a changing climate. Many varieties of the food crops we grow in the UK have been tailored to very specific local climate conditions. This means that even slight changes in growing seasons, water availability and weather extremes could cause dramatic reductions in production if not countered with research expertise.

The initiative will also emphasise the need for any increases in production to be sustainable. Increasing demand from a global population estimated to reach nine billion by 2050 will require increases in production, but this must be done on proportionally less land and with less water, fertiliser and other inputs.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills said "Any research initiative to improve fruits and vegetables should start with the end product - what do we as consumers want to eat. That is why we're excited about this initiative. We can combine the scientific expertise of academic researchers with the real-world expertise of industry in the hope of delivering bigger yields of better quality fruit and veg for us all to buy"

The £7M research fund will be available through two calls, the first of which opens today.

Tom Taylor, Chief Executive of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said: "Collaboration between researchers and industry is essential for the development of practical business solutions. This BBSRC initiative will help focus the research and development community towards addressing real cross sector opportunities and challenges."

ENDS

Notes to editors

The first call for research proposals is now open. Please see the BBSRC website for further information www.bbsrc.ac.uk/horticulture .

BBSRC, NERC and the Scottish Government all contribute to the Global Food Security programme.

About Global Food Security

The UK's main public funders of food-related research and training are working together through Global Food Security to meet the challenge of providing the world's growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of good quality food from less land and with lower inputs.

The programme delivers coordinated, multidisciplinary research through 4 themes:

  1. Economic resilience
  2. Resource efficiency
  3. Sustainable production
  4. Sustainable, healthy, safe diets

About AHDB

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is an independent, evidence-based 'Levy Board' which plays a pivotal role in improving farm business efficiency and competitiveness. The AHDB is wholly funded by farmers and growers through statutory levies. Because the levy is statutory AHDB is classified as a non-departmental public body.

About HDC

The HDC is a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) which administers the collection of an 'industry levy' to fund essential near-market research and development. The research programme and knowledge transfer activities are strategically aligned to the needs of the industry by working closely with growers, consultants, scientists and funding bodies. If you would like more information on the HDC please visit www.hdc.org.uk

About Potato Council

Potato Council, supporting the potato industry, is funded by potato growers, purchasers and processors, www.potato.org.uk . Potato Council is a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, www.ahdb.org.uk . R&D projects are commissioned and managed that aim to improve marketable yield, reduce defects and reduce input costs. Currently the programme involves around 35 projects with a total value of approximately £10M. Of this £1.8M is levy payer funding, with the remainder coming from other sponsors such as Scottish Government, Defra, Technology Strategy Board, BBSRC and potato industry businesses. If you would like more information please visit www.potato.org.uk/about-us/research-development

Value of horticulture and potatoes

Although horticulture accounts for just 3.7% of non-grass cropped land in the UK it includes more than 300 crops with a combined home-produced value of around £2.23Bn. Increasing horticultural production would create jobs, reduce imports, provide more local food and help improve people's diets. But to realise these benefits in an increasingly challenging market, commercial horticulture as a whole needs continued investment in research and knowledge transfer.

Potato is an important global food source. After wheat and rice, potato is the third most important food crop, with a world-wide production of 309 million tonnes in 2007. The GB potato industry delivers sales value of £947M at farm gate and £3.8Bn at consumer level. By 2020 it is estimated that more than two billion people worldwide will depend on potato for food, feed, or income.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .