Agriculture & BioEconomy Sustainability Challenges

In 2018, the human population reached 7.6 billion (7600 million) people all of whom have requirements for food, feed, fuel (energy), fibre, fuel, chemicals and medicines to sustain their health and livelihoods. As incomes and purchasing power rises, such resource requirements will rise also. Where food supply does not keep pace with demand, this leads to price rises that disproportionately affect the poor and poorest in all societies. The food security challenge is immense and urgent - according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there are over 1 billion under-nourished people in developing countries, suffering from the interlinked problems of hunger and poverty (FAO, 2009). There are a number of factors that are now rapidly converging to aggravate the state of food insecurity, including population increases, changing consumption patterns, increasing incomes, growing demand for meat and dairy (especially grain-fed), growing demand for biofuels, scarcity of land and water, slowing of agricultural productivity and adverse impacts of climate change.

The Ryan Institute’s Plant & AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) is focussed on the major challenge to accelerate the development and introduction of new suites of productivity-increasing bio-based technologies and systems (for crops, animals, algae, fish, forestry, food & biological wastes), that are sustainable in the sense that they do not themselves inflict damage on the soil, water and ecological resources as well as on the atmospheric conditions on which future food outputs and biobased products depends. Sustainable agri-food systems will involve transitions to zero-waste and circular economy concepts in all food-related bioeconomies both at the production, processing and consumption stages. This will involve development of biorefinery systems which can be the sources of the renewable bio-based products of the future. The Ryan Institute’s Bioeconomy Cluster is focussed on the development of more sustainable bioeconomy systems to support humanity.