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New centre aims to help UK Farming address production and sustainability challenges

15 February 2011

Two leading UK institutes have joined forces with food retailer Waitrose to establish a new centre, aimed at helping the UK farming and food sector to meet increasing challenges in food production and sustainability.

Called the Centre of Excellence for UK Farming, or CEUKF, the new centre will provide a network of expertise to help ensure that the best information and advice on developments in science, innovation and practical know-how are accessible to provide real benefits across the supply chain.

From the outset the centre will link and interact widely with partners in applied research and industry, and with policy-makers and stakeholders. The two founding institutes are the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), in Cambridge.

Waitrose agreed to seed-fund the establishment of the Centre of Excellence as part of its commitment to finding long-term solutions to food security, climate change and other issues affecting future agricultural production

Waitrose MD Mark Price said: “Farmers and the food chain are fundamental to our response to the global challenge of feeding more people using fewer inputs and with reduced environmental impact. Securing a balance between increased productivity and more efficient use of natural resources will require new thinking and innovative approaches. That objective is fundamental to the Centre of Excellence.”

Prof Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS, says that most people are now aware that farming, including here in the UK, faces major changes in future. “The UK has long been at the forefront of agricultural science, and has some of the most productive farming around”, he said. “But we can do more to transfer that knowledge into action, to meet the challenges of global food security and address environmental issues like climate change and conservation of resources. The CEUKF is committed to move in that direction”

CEUKF Steering Board chair, Sir Don Curry, said CEUKF provides a practical response to high-level calls for the ‘sustainable intensification’ of agriculture by translating cutting-edge science and practical know-how into meaningful guidance and support to meet the needs of farmers and food producers.

“As founding institutes within CEUKF, IBERS and NIAB TAG are delivering high quality agricultural and environmental research, as well as directly linking and interacting with many thousands of UK farmers and growers. As the Centre develops, our ambition is to grow its capabilities and bring together a broadening partnership of farming, research and food chain organisations who share a commitment to sustainable, efficient food production. This is the kind of partnership I have been seeking for 10 years! ”

Initial work on the CEUKF began in June 2010, and already pilot research programmes are underway to benchmark the efficiency of UK lamb and wheat production, focused on key sustainability indicators such as resource use, greenhouse gas emissions and ecological diversity. Preliminary results of these foundation projects will be announced later this year.

 

Notes:

The CEUKF (Centre of Excellence for UK Farming) is a joint initiative between IBERS at Aberystwyth University and NIAB TAG, with initial seed funding provided by Waitrose

IBERS, the Institute of Biological, Ecological and Rural Sciences, at Aberystwyth University, is a world class research and education centre combining the Institutes of Rural Sciences and Biological Sciences at Aberystwyth University, and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER). It is a leading centre of expertise and cutting edge research ranging from genetics and breeding in grassland and forage, to climate change, bio-energy, sustainable agriculture and land use.

NIAB TAG, located in Cambridge, combines the 90 year history of crop and plant science of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, in Cambridge, with the applied agronomy and knowledge transfer expertise of The Arable Group. It is a National centre for plant breeding, crop evaluation, agronomy and seed sciences, with extensive training and advisory programmes.

For further information contact:

Prof Nigel Scollan, Head of Animal and Microbial Sciences, Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences
T: +44 (0)1970 823000
M: 07970 100461
E: ngs@aber.ac.uk

Stuart Knight, Director of Crops and Agronomy, NIAB
T: +44 (0)1223 342200
M: 07974 391722
E: stuart.knight@niab.com

Issued by
Colin Merritt, CEUKF
T: 01347 823195
M: 07769 355222
E: cmerritt@cmcl.co.uk