Food Security Innovations: Insights from the Annual Conference

Food Security Innovations: Insights from the Annual Conference

June’s MDS Annual Conference brought together industry leaders and experts to plan for the future of UK fresh food supply, nurture talent and discuss the latest trends and innovations in the food and agricultural sectors.

Food Security Innovations for the Future

Hosted by Max McGillivray, the expert panel focused on food security innovations, with presentations delivered by: Richard Bonn, Co-Founder of Aethr Associates, specialists in sustainability; Sam Franklin, Technical Director of AM Fresh UK, end-to-end suppliers of citrus fruits and grapes; James Green Group Director of Agriculture, G’s Fresh, Europe’s leading family-owned, fully integrated fresh produce company; and Joel Johnson, Business Director, BASF Agricultural Solutions.

Their insights provided valuable perspectives on how businesses can adapt and thrive in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment.

Integrated End-to-End Innovation: AM Fresh

Sam Franklin’s talk focused on end-to-end food security innovations in the produce supply chain. He emphasised AM Fresh’s integrated approach, which ensures quality and efficiency at every stage.

AM Fresh’s innovative use of technologies like nano bubble irrigation – precision agriculture with smart atomisers and their soil drip irrigation systems enhance productivity and promote sustainable practices at the same time. A key highlight was a look into innovative grape hybridisation techniques. This advanced breeding programme produces consistent and high-yield grape varieties, meeting consumer demands for both high quality and sustainability.

Sam underscored the importance of integrating innovation throughout the supply chain to maintain product quality, reduce waste, and achieve sustainability goals. By leveraging their extensive network and advanced technologies, AM Fresh is setting new standards in the produce industry. Their research and development leadership in pre and post-harvest management, along with market-leading genetics programmes, ensures they remain ahead in offering superior citrus and grape varieties, driving efficiency and satisfying consumers.

Implementing Innovation for Environmental, Social and Governance Goals: G’s Fresh

Group Director of Agriculture at G’s Fresh, James Green also focused on end-to-end innovation, this time sharing insights around the hard work and persistence needed turn ideas into reality. James emphasised the G’s Fresh’ long-standing commitment to innovation, a family legacy embedded in the company since its launch.

James discussed several key areas of food security innovations, including investments in advanced agricultural technologies and sustainability. G’s Fresh have implemented precision farming techniques, like variable rate nitrogen application, optimising crop yields and reducing waste. Additionally, their work with machine-learning models helps predict harvest times and improve supply chain management. James also highlighted the G’s Fresh’s progress in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices, with the business aiming to achieve full regenerative farming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their commitment to continuous improvement and collaboration with research organisations underscores their dedication to maintaining leadership in the industry.

James Green, speaker on Food Security Innovations
James Green chats agri-food careers at the networking portion of the Annual Conference

Innovation is Everyone: BASF

Joel Johnson, Business Director Agricultural Solutions UK & Ireland for BASF, focused on the extensive innovation programme and global reach of BASF, a leading player in agricultural solutions. He highlighted BASF’s commitment to sustainability through advanced chemical processes and innovations like green cracking at their production sites. Joel emphasised the historical and ongoing importance of the Haber-Bosch process in producing synthetic nitrogen to address global food security.

Joel also discussed BASF’s work in developing biological solutions, such as pheromone-based pest control, and investments in digital tools and precision agriculture. These innovations aim to optimise water and light, enhancing agricultural efficiency and sustainability. Joe’s presentation underscored the need to address global challenges such as climate change, urbanisation, and the need for higher food production by 2050. He emphasised the importance of reducing food waste and improving yield efficiency to meet these demands. BASF’s comprehensive approach includes significant investment in R&D, with over 3,000 researchers dedicated to agricultural innovations, aiming to advance sustainable food production globally. The talk ended on an inspirational note, reminding the audience that innovation is everywhere and everyone has a role to play in driving progress and sustainability in agriculture.

Food Security Innovations in a Volatile Climate: Aethr Associates

Richard Bonn wrapped up with a compelling overview of the challenges and strategies related to food security in a volatile climate. He pointed to the severe impacts of climate change on agriculture, including reduced crop yields, shifting growing seasons, and disrupted supply chains, all contributing to increased and volatile food prices. Richard discussed sustainable approaches like controlled environment farming, precision agriculture, agroforestry, and regenerative agriculture, emphasising the need for businesses to understand their environmental impact, adapt to changing climates, and prioritise sustainability to build a resilient food system.

Richard detailed food security innovation strategies for businesses to build resilience in their supply chains and stressed the importance of conducting materiality assessments, developing sustainability strategies, and creating net zero roadmaps. He also highlighted the need for targeted investment and climate change risk assessments. By understanding the full impact of these issues and implementing proactive measures, businesses can ensure long-term viability and contribute to a more resilient and equitable food system.

This year’s conference was bigger and better than ever and continues to be a vital platform for the industry, bringing together inspired graduates and thought leaders to share knowledge and insights. We are immensely grateful to the speakers for contributing to the event and providing valuable perspectives that drive innovation and sustainability. Their talks are crucial in helping businesses navigate the complexities of today’s agricultural landscape. The conference not only fosters collaboration and knowledge-sharing but also inspires the industry to embrace new technologies and sustainable practices, ensuring a resilient future for all.