Insight

The Food Systems Network
A creative commons for food system innovators
Sustainability

Sustainability

Working with technologists, researchers, developers, business leaders, indviduals and NGOs, we explore, test and develop new and innovative food service and food production solutions to meet the environmental challenges of our rapidly changing world. 

Over the past decade, food businesses have created detailed maps of the terrain they wish to 'conquer' and developed operational guides and strategic briefs on how to achieve this. With COVID-19, the maps are really no longer accurate and many of the accompanying operational guides, no longer instructive.

The Food Foundation now estimates at least three million people in the UK depend on food banks. HASPhotos
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Tim Lang, City, University of London; Erik P Millstone, University of Sussex, and Terry Marsden, Cardiff University

Planning failures and financial cuts are being exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the world of food, too, planning is needed both to deal with short-term emergencies and to address longer-term risks.

After a quarter of a century of nations from around the world coming together to discuss progress in dealing with climate change, emissions are still rising. The 25th annual United Nations climate change summit is now underway – and for the sake of the planet, it’s high time it changed its approach.

Food Operations

Food Operations

The Food Service Industry, one of the fastest growing industries in the world and the site of rapid innovation and development, is a key area of focus for sustainable innovation. With new technologies and social media transforming both operations and management, the Food Service Industry is set to change even further. 

Megan Blake, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of Sheffield

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed just how much we depend on easy access to food. The beginning of the UK’s lockdown saw the closure of restaurants and pubs, and empty supermarket shelves. The number of people who are struggling to access food because of financial difficulties has dramatically swelled.

Standards and Regulation

Standards and Regulation

Standards and regulation are vital to ensure that public health and the environment are protected. They are also key to the reputation of businesses and organisations that follow their guidance.

A form of government rationing is now needed, says one of the UK’s leading food supply experts.

Tim Lang, City, University of London

Food security is no laughing matter at the best of times, but I gasped when I first read the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) annual food civil contingencies infrastructure report in 2018. It is barely a page long (in public at least) and assures us everything is OK and that the food system is resilient and able to withstand shocks. As the coronvirus racks the nation and panic buying continues, this complacency is about to be tested.

We’re increasingly aware of how plastic is polluting our environment. Much recent attention has focused on how microplastics – tiny pieces ranging from 5 millimetres down to 100 nanometres in diameter – are filling the seas and working their way into the creatures that live in them. That means these ocean microplastics are entering the food chain and, ultimately, our bodies.

The globalization of the food chain has resulted in increased complexity and diminished transparency and trust into how and where our foods are grown, harvested, processed and by whom.

Networking

Networking

The health and future of our food systems requires cooperation and co-innovation across the full food supply chain.  Innovation is now driven through open systems that readily challenge and overturn conventional thinking.

In exploring new paths to market, Food Service Companies are increasingly looking to external providers to acquire the scientific and technological expertise that will help them improve their growth strategy and advance the capabilities of their own innovation teams.

Technology

Technology

New technologies and innovations in food systems are helping us to improve food security and human nutrition whilst addressing the widespread damage to our environment. Read about the innovation that will transform our global food systems and help us achieve food and environmental security. 

Soon, it will be possible, to know a great deal about the food product that was just delivered to your door. Systems designers and developers from across the foodservice sector are working together to join up the links that will make this possible. At the moment, you would be lucky if the product you ordered online had arrived safe and sound to your home or office. It might, for instance, not be the product you ordered but the product that someone else ordered.

Innovation

Innovation

Innovation through technology, policy change, and public awareness is critical to reshaping our food systems for the good of all. Read about the radical and disruptive innovation now changing the nature of food production and food service to help meet the challenges ahead.

Food Delivery Orders (Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Just Eat) are said to be increasing 30 times faster than for the overall foodservice industry. Meal kits (HelloFresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef) now account for more than 5 million meals a month in the UK. In the US in 2018, Delivery orders in accounted for more than 9% of all restaurant sales. In London, the current figure is 12%.

Amazon, without doubt, has been broadening the reach of the world's most advanced logistics platform and is now sharpening its focus on food. Food management (production, packaging, service, delivery, etc) is however a very complex business and Amazon's recent closure of its restaurant delivery service in the UK is very likely to be a full acknowledgement of this. 

The arrival of online food delivery platforms, bringing greater choice and convenience, has revolutionized the way we purchase and consume food. The capability of ordering food for delivery with a single tap of your mobile phone, whether it be your weekly supply, a meal box or a hot and ready to eat meal is the result of a series of technological and digital innovations that have as yet to run their full course.

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