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The Great Debate: Engineering better food systems – University of Reading

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The Great Debate: Engineering better food systems

Today’s global food system uses a lot of resources: fuel and fossil-derived fertilisers on the farm, fuel for transport, plastics for packaging and electricity for refrigeration with wastage at each stage. What can engineering do to improve sustainability of food production and distribution as the world population increases?

There will be four short talks on the topics set out below followed by an opportunity for the audience to raise questions and views to a panel consisting of the four speakers.

Chairman: Professor Stuart Green, University of Reading

Pressures influencing food production: Dr Eugene Mohareb, University of Reading There are many pressures on conventional agriculture with climate change a particular challenge but urbanisation and other pressures on land use also having an impact. This talk will discuss these aspects and explain the challenge we face.

Waste: Dr Tim Fox, Independent Consultant Studies have shown that up to 50% of food grown is currently lost or discarded between the field and the consumer. Food production is also estimated to account for 30% of energy consumption globally. Wastage both of food and energy occurs at each stage of the process and there are already simple measures that can be introduced to reduce this waste.

Automation: Professor Simon Blackmore, Harper Adams University Automation and robotisation of agriculture offers many potential societal benefits. Machinery can be smaller and lighter and carryout operations with greater accuracy and only where sensors indicate that action is required. The result is improved yields of usable crops with less energy expended and less damage to the environment.

Non-conventional farming: Tom Webster, GrownUp Urban Farms Ltd Production of food other than via conventional agriculture is already well established with hydroponics and vertical growing techniques. This offers benefits of low energy and wastage as well as production close to the consumer for some items. How far can this approach be extended?

The debate will begin at 19:00 but we invite you to join us from 18:00 for tea and coffee beforehand

Event information


12 March 2018




G10, Palmer building, Whiteknights campus


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