Day 1 – N8 AgriFood Conference

N8 AgriFood’s 2019 Conference got underway today as almost 250 delegates descended upon The Principal Hotel in York for the two day event.

Attracting an international audience from academia, industry, government and beyond, the event celebrates the achievements of the N8 AgriFood programme and is shaping debate on how we can collectively contribute further to solutions for food systems resilience and sustainability.

During the opening session of the conference, which is being held at the Principal Hotel in York, and is sponsored by the Universities of Leeds, Newcastle and York, N8 AgriFood’s Principal Investigator, Professor Deborah Smith revealed that in the last two weeks, the N8 Board had pledged to support Phase 2 of the N8 AgriFood programme, ensuring a continuation and expansion of the first five years.

Professor Smith said: “This is a critical time for these activities when the spotlight is on the urgent global need to provide sufficient, affordable, safe and nutritious food in a sustainable and resilient food systems, which is a critical driver for everyone in this room today.

“N8 AgriFood is well positioned to contribute to this global need; it has broken down the common barriers of working across institutions and disciplines to tackle the global crisis.”

The Conference was formally opened by Professor Charlie Jeffery, the Vice Chancellor of the University of York, pictured left.

He said: “When I look at N8 I think what an extraordinary advantage to be part of that.

It’s an extraordinary advantage because no one university can have a monopoly on knowledge and capability, and what the N8 can do together is to combine its capacities across disciplines.

“I heard just now that the word interdisciplinary might not be enough, and in fact we should talk about being undisciplined which is a concept I rather like; being creative and not bound.”

The opening of the conference also heard from Dr Riaz Bhunoo, director of Global Food Security who gave details of a new £47.5 million GFS research programme, supporting interdisciplinary research and training to transform the UK food system.

The programme, which will make £25 million available in the first calls, seeks to make UK food healthier and more sustainable, to change the behaviour of actors across the food system, to model the interdependencies across the UK food system to identify win wins, manage the trade offs and avoid unintended consequences, and to train the next generation of food systems thinkers.

Following the welcomes to the event, delegates heard from the Conference’s first keynote speaker – Jonathan Brooks, Head of the Agri-Food Trade and Markets Division at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), who talked about policies for a more coherent food system. To read N8 AgriFood’s interview with Mr Brooks, click HERE.

The Conference’s first plenary session saw speakers from Cranfield Water Science Institute, Lancaster University, the University of York, and Nestle discuss the global impacts of the UK Food System, before the afternoon saw delegates split up to attend a series of parallel sessions. Topics covered in the afternoon included soil stewardship, voluntary food standards, social enterprise hybrids, urban agriculture, land use, and food insecurity.

The first day of the Conference drew to a close with a poster presentation before delegates made their way to the National Railway Museum for the Conference Dinner.

The conference continues with Day 2 tomorrow.