Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN food sustainability newsletter

The FCRN’s weekly newsletter on food sustainability, Fodder, rounds up the latest journal papers, reports, books, jobs, events and more. Sign up to receive it here.

Network updates

In Fodder this week

We have several items from FCRN members this week:

Research library

Image: Max Pixel, Agriculture Cows Cow, CC0 Public Domain

In this paper, FCRN member Nicholas Bowles of the University of Melbourne reviews existing data on the environmental impacts of the livestock sector and considers these impacts in the context of planetary boundaries. The paper reports that efficiency alone is unlikely to be adequate to shrink livestock’s impacts to a sustainable level, and that dietary shifts will also be necessary.

Image: Impossible Foods Media Kit, IF Impossible Burger 08

FCRN member Alexandra Sexton describes the narratives and counter-narratives that have been used to talk about alternatives such as cultured meat and plant-based meat replacements.

Image: Kevin Dooley, Rain cloud over Phoenix, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

This paper uses climate models to estimate that average precipitation across many crop production areas will change by more than natural variability throughout the 21st century. Changes are seen even if emissions are relatively low, but meeting the Paris climate goals could reduce the extent of cropland that is affected.

This report from the UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association reviews the current state of sustainability in the UK food service sector. The three main challenges it identifies are reducing the amount of meat on menus, reducing food waste, and using less single-use plastic packaging.

This report from the Japanese Institute for Global Environmental Strategies shows how lifestyles would have to change in industrialised countries and some industrialising countries in order to meet climate change targets.

This report by international non-profit Forum for the Future outlines some key trends in sustainability that the authors expect will be important over the next decade. The report also aims to equip decision-makers with a greater ability to influence systems at the scale necessary to tackle global challenges.

This report by US non-profit Centre for International Environmental Law reviews research on the human health impacts of plastics throughout their lifecycle, including extraction of fossil fuels, refining and production, consumer use, waste management, fragmenting and microplastics and accumulation of plastics in food chains.

This report from WRAP and Valpak combines data sets on food purchase and food waste to derive a more up-to-date picture of UK food consumption patterns.

This book explores the economic, environmental and social aspects of the development of Brazil’s agricultural sector over time. Chapter topics include the role of public policies, innovation and research, family farming and land governance.

FCRN member Samuel Smith of international non-profit Forum for the Future has created a three-part blog series exploring sustainability issues linked to animal feed. The blog posts round up the findings of Forum for the Future’s project Feed Compass: acting on animal feed.

FCRN member Pat Thomas of UK campaign group Beyond GM has helped to set up the website A Bigger Conversation, which aims to bring together experts and thinkers, including scientists, academics, farmers, breeders and grassroots leaders, from multiple disciplines and multiple sides of the debate on genetic engineering in the food system.


The Dutch Research Institute for Transitions at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam is hiring a postdoctoral research on the topic of sustainability transitions in general and in urban food systems in particular.

The position will involve examining urban food innovators in production, distribution, and consumption (e.g. vertical farming, food sharing, food delivery, circular approaches to reuse food waste) using a transition lens.

Candidates should have an excellent academic track record, a completed PhD degree, and preferably have previous working experiences with Chinese research partners.

For more details, see here. Apply by 24 March 2019.

The Institute for Global Health at University College London is hiring a communications manager to join the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change.

The communications manager will be responsible for working with internal and external stakeholders to develop and agree the second phase of the Lancet Countdown's communications strategy.

Candidates should have experience of executing a communications or marketing campaign for a product, social issue, or report; media and press experience; and experience of communicating complex academic or scientific concepts concisely and compellingly.

For full details, see here. Apply by 27 March 2019.

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Food consortium is inviting individuals to join its database of independent experts to advise or assist with evaluating proposals, monitoring programmes and providing opinions to EIT Food for specific cases.

Candidates should have at least 8-10 years of professional experience in the food sector, higher education, business creation/venture growth or consumer engagement.

For more details, see here. Apply by 15 April 2019.

The US private foundation Tiny Beam Fund is advertising a funding opportunity for academic researchers to “address negative impacts of global industrial food animal production (especially in low- and middle-income countries)”.

It is not clear who funds or runs the Tiny Beam Fund.

For more details, see here. Applications close on 31 May 2019.

The Dutch VLAG Graduate School and Wageningen University & Research will host a short course on healthy and sustainable diets from 8 July until 10 July 2019. The course is aimed at PhD students and postdocs as well as professionals from industry and research centres.

The course will cover the following topics:

  • Current knowledge base: lectures to obtain an overview of food systems and population health; assessment and evaluation of environmental sustainability and health impact of current dietary patterns and dietary changes.
  • Food systems: lectures to understand the principles and indicators and of healthy diets, global health and environmental sustainability; basic and advanced optimisation methods. Policy alternatives, spatial heterogeneity, foresight and scenarios.
  • Practical work: gain a critical attitude by performing basic calculations of the impact of dietary changes on nutritional health and sustainability.
  • Societal debate with public and private stakeholders in the food system: balancing health with social, ecologic, and economic sustainability.
  • Research needs: filling research gaps, advancing methodology, enabling research infrastructures, data stewardship.

For more details, see here. Register by 8 June 2019.


UK farming and research network Agri-Tech East will host an event on swarm robotics and how the technology could be applied to agriculture.

The speakers will be:

  • Alan Millard, Lecturer in Robotics, University of Plymouth
  • Clive Blacker, CEO, Precision Decisions
  • Mark Nicholson, Senior Lecturer in Systems Safety, University of York
  • Dr David Rose,  Lecturer in Geography, University of East Anglia
  • Small Robot Company

For more details, see here. The event is on 25 April 2019.

De Montfort University will host a one-day conference on how UK agricultural policy may change as the UK withdraws from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.

The conference will bring together prominent academics, policy makers, media representatives and stakeholders to discuss critical issues impacting food workers, environmental protection and food production in post-Brexit Britain.

For more details, see here. The conference will be on 3 May 2019.