Dr Eleftheria Stavridou- NIAB EMR
Prof Guy Poppy – University of Southampton
Dr J Baverstock – University of Southampton
The recent Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the urgent need to address undernutrition and malnutrition in the UK.
Micronutrient deficiencies are now widely recognised to be as important, if not more important than undernutrition. The National Food Strategy plan clearly outlines 4 goals for the UK food system including a recommendation on how innovative research is required to transform the UK food system.
The creation of new business models is essential and the nutrition agenda within the agriculture sector has yet to make a convincing case for farmers and agribusiness in how the food production and nutrition objectives align. Biofortification is a well-established practice to improve crop nutritional quality in many global commodities, but currently in the UK biofortified fresh produce is considered a niche product and has not penetrated the market. The price paid back to the growers from the retailers does not necessarily justify the extra cost of production, therefore has not been implemented widely. However, the additional benefits of the biofortification in the food production are rarely considered and as we start thinking more about the food system, there is a need to include broader analysis and thinking. When biofortification is optimised, crop health improves. The improved general crop health enhances growth and nutrient uptake efficiency, as well as resilience against biotic and abiotic stresses. The studentship will use the Nutrition Smart Agriculture (NSmartAg) approaches in horticultural crops. The NSmartAG will contribute to the improvement of human nutritional status of the local population and increase farm and/or agribusiness-level productivity/revenue. This approach is a building block of food systems that promote healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy economies. There are four main steps in the methodology for the development of the NSmartAg which will be addressed in this project: i) identification of the malnutrition problems in the UK; ii) analysis to extract nutrient consumption levels for a set of nutrients associated with the identified malnutrition problems; iii) identification of food groups in the horticulture industry for further investigation; iv) identification of NSmartAg practices and technologies.