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Person picking cocoa plant in forest

Securing food for the future

Published: 27 January 2022

The increasing challenge with food security

Food security is a global issue, with billions of people already affected. The United Nations estimates that by 2030 we will need 50 percent more food, 50 percent more energy and 30 percent more water to provide for the growing population.

To help find solutions to these challenges, Southampton led a multi-million pound project in Malawi, Colombia and Peru, to look at how we can make sure people living between forests and agriculture are healthy in terms of nutrition.

Around a billion people are already food insecure, around a billion more are obese, and another billion are malnourished, by not having a diet that provides a healthy lifestyle.

Professor Guy Poppy

The Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems through Trade-off Scenarios (ASSETS) project, brought together international partners to work to understand how people in vulnerable parts of the world can keep themselves food secure.

Enhancing crop production for health benefits

Nutrition also plays a massive part of food security for the future. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, around 40 per cent of children aged under five in developing countries are anaemic.

Gail Taylor, Professor of Plant and Environmental Biology, is conducting research focused on developing nutrient-dense vegetables and plants, which will help target specific health conditions such as anemia and cancer.

Providing new insights into its potential, Gail’s pioneering research hopes to use selective breeding so it can be grown in developing countries.

In a Sainsbury's funded project we've reduced the water use in baby leaf herbs using deficit irrigation, and are now helping to implement a remote sensing system using thermal images and the crop water stress index to save water.

Professor Gail Taylor

Gail is now working with a number of commercial partners including Sainsbury’s and Vitacress Salads so the benefits of the watercress can be made widely available across both developed and developing nations.