Brainstorming event first step in what is hoped will eventually be the creation of several scientific and technical innovations

  • 11
  • JUN
  • 2019

More than two dozen visionary businesses and academics that want to do their bit for the planet will be given the opportunity today, as they are brought together in a hackathon aimed at fixing our food system.

The one-day brainstorming event is the first step in what is hoped will eventually be the creation of several new solutions utilising scientific and technical expertise to address food sustainability challenges such as battling climate change, tackling waste, reducing the impact of farming on the environment and enabling healthier eating.

Organised by the multi-million-pound Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab, the Sustainable Food Systems Challenge event near Okehampton draws on the world-leading expertise found in the region, which includes the University of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, the Met Office, Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the University of Plymouth, and the event’s host, Rothamsted Research.

Dr Khalid Mahmood, Innovation and Partnerships Manager at Rothamsted Research said: “The reason for today is to bring together inspired individuals with great ideas and who are looking for game changing technologies, with experts from various fields who can the provide the in-depth understanding of the problems, and the creative expertise to help develop new solutions.

“Maintaining a sustainable food system under threat of climate change whilst meeting the nutritional needs of society provide perhaps our greatest challenges. We believe the solutions can potentially come from anywhere within the supply chain and take any form – be it an innovation, a data platform, or just a new way of doing things.

“This is an event for people with a passion for problem solving and a broad set of skills and experience to come together and collaborate.”

Previous Challenge events have been highly successful, inspiring different business ideas that are currently focussed around water, food waste, plastic, greenhouse gas emissions, and led by various Impact Lab partners.

Head of Rothamsted’s North Wyke facility, Professor Michael Lee said: “Rothamsted Research has world class expertise in understanding the nutrients flow within ecosystems, such as those going from the soil, via grass, to become the end products of meat and milk. Our ultimate goal here is to address the nutritional requirement for a healthy diet and a healthy planet.”

The Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab is a £6.4m partnership, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

It offers free support to businesses looking to capitalise on opportunities and create new products and services using environmentally-based solutions, or by exploiting the recent explosion in large datasets.

Impact Lab Director Robert Kathro said: “Our objective is to boost inward investment and productivity-led growth by positioning Devon as a national and international centre for environmental and big data analytics.”

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.