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Expansion of Centre’s activity brings gains through partnership

The Centre of Excellence for UK Farming (CEUKF), an agri-food supply-chains alliance to help UK Farming address production and sustainability challenges, announced that its partnership now includes 5 leading UK research institutions and helps run a number of collaborative agri-food R&D projects.

Since its launch in 2011 with seed-funding from food retailer Waitrose, the centre now includes: Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS); NIAB TAG; Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute of Northern Ireland (AFBI); Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Harper Adams University. CEUKF delivers briefings and news item for the partners and their projects through its Farming Futures (FF) website, twitter followers and the partners’ wider network.

The CEUKF Steering Board of industry and academic leaders is chaired by Lord Curry of Kirkharle who said, “CEUKF is helping to cement relationships through building trust and smoothing lines of communication during a complex, competitive and challenging time for agriculture, food processing and retailing. The research projects and industrial interactions initiated by this alliance are making a real difference to agriculture in the UK, bringing new knowledge into agri-food supply chains and enabling a fresh approach to knowledge exchange.”

From the outset the centre has worked to link and interact widely with partners in applied research and industry, and with policy-makers and stakeholders. Dr Tina Barsby of NIAB says a key role for CEUKF is to promote best practice in sustainable efficient production among UK farmers: “The concept of ‘sustainable intensification’ in agriculture – producing more output per unit of resource and environmental impact – is widely established as the necessary response to Sir John Beddington’s ‘perfect storm’ of population growth, climate change and declining natural resources. Less clear is precisely what this means in practice for different product sectors and farming systems, how to measure and benchmark current performance and, critically, how to drive improvements in sustainable efficient production over time. A central objective for CEUKF is to identify and promote best practice among UK farmers, through innovation and knowledge transfer in technology, production systems and on-farm management.”

Professor Seamus Kennedy, CEO of AFBI said “Development of the agri-food industry in a sustainable manner requires increased levels of innovation at all levels of the food chain and increased collaboration between research organisations and industry.”

Dr David Llewelyn, Vice Chancellor of Harper Adams University added that, “The CEUKF brings together a national network of institutions with a substantial track record of working with industry in agricultural science and technology. The strengths of the network, from basic to strategic and applied research, combined with those of innovative commercial organisations, will help the UK face the challenge of improving business performance, productivity and sustainability in the agri-food sector.”

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 in the World”, 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 ensuring that the UK is the best place to grow safe, natural, nutritious food in the presence of climate change.”

Professor Bob Webb of SRUC agrees that the partnership has an important role in UK agriculture, he said, “To deliver a world class agricultural industry requires a pipeline of basic and strategic research that feeds through to inform both the training of our students and our advisory services. Importantly, partners within CEUKF have this breadth of integrated expertise and provision.’’

As the Centre develops, its 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. To this end it runs regular conferences and research projects on bench-marking Sustainable, Efficient Production measurements through its SEP-Index projects and through bringing together expertise from Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and a number of leading global companies.


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