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

9th Feb 2012

A new research initiative launched on the 9th 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."

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