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Shaping the future of sustainable, healthy and nutritious food

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CHAP is one of the four UK Agri-Tech Centres of Innovation. We bring together scientists, farmers, advisors, and pioneers to advance crop productivity and yield in the UK and beyond.

Sustainable food is becoming increasingly popular among health-conscious consumers, not just for its environmental benefits but also for the perception that it is more nutritious than non-sustainable alternatives.

But does sustainable food truly hold a nutritional edge over its conventional counterparts?

Sustainability in agri-tech centres around meeting demand for food whilst maintaining the productivity and health of the land over time, ensuring economic viability, and fostering social equity.

When we link sustainability to nutrition, we’re looking at how these practices contribute to producing food that not only feeds the population but does so in a way that is nutrient-rich and beneficial to our health.

Pea field

© Chap

Sustainable farming techniques

Sustainable agriculture focuses on practices designed to maintain the productivity and health of the land over time.

Techniques such as crop rotation, cover cropping, and reduced tillage not only conserve soil health but also influence the nutritional content of food. These practices, by promoting biodiversity and soil fertility, can lead to crops that are potentially richer in nutrients.

Crop Health and Protection (CHAP- one of the three Agri-Tech Centres) is committed to sustainable practices that enhance food nutritional quality while minimising environmental impact, and advocates for advances in integrated pest management as well as precision agriculture with projects like SprayBot and SLIMERS.

The role of plant-based proteins

Plant-based diets are not only associated with lower environmental impact but also with improved health outcomes and lower environmental footprints.

Foods like legumes, nuts, and whole grains are staples of a plant-based diet and are rich sources of fibre, vitamins, and minerals.

By supporting the production of sustainable plant-based proteins, projects including Sustainable Lupins and Sustainable Legumes are contributing to a food system that supports both the planet’s health and our own​​.

Achieving sustainable plant-based proteins within the UK’s production systems is a key part of CHAP’s portfolio of work, highlighting the important role of innovation and collaborative R&D in advancing the alternative protein sector for improved sustainability and productivity.

Purple flowers in field

© Chap

Nutrient circularity in agriculture

Another area of interest which the Agri-Tech Centres have been exploring as part of their New Innovations programme is nutrient circularity.

Taking a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) and total controlled environment agriculture (TCEA) approach, there is potential for agricultural practices to produce crops with enhanced nutritional profiles in an environmentally conscious way and can lead to enhanced nutrient profiles in the food produced.

Aeroponics increase a plants access to oxygen and nutrients, and CHAP’s collaboration with LettUs Grow on the Advanced Aeroponics project demonstrates how we can integrate tech into improving farming practices both in theory and on a commercial level.

The soil microbiome’s impact on nutrition

The health of the soil microbiome is crucial for sustainable agriculture and can have an impact on the nutritional quality of crops. A diverse and healthy soil microbiome can improve plant growth, increase nutrient uptake, and enhance the nutritional content of crops.

Research into the soil microbiome and its role in sustainable agriculture underscores the importance of maintaining soil health for the production of nutritious food​​

Join the conversation

Innovation Sector Lead and alternative protein specialist Dr Réka Haraszi will be discussing the need for a varied sources of protein in the food supply chain, under-utilised crops and inviting delegates from across the sector to join the conversation at the Plant Protein Connect event in Sheffield on 12 March 2024.

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The event will focus on eliminating the barriers of collaboration within the plant-based protein sector in the UK.