Future Food Utrecht

Future Food Utrecht offers a platform for scientists and external stakeholders on which they contribute to the transition of the food chain for a sustainable world, by means of unique transdisciplinary research and education. The search is for catalysts of change; small interventions with big effects. Our ambition is to strive for diets that are both good for the planet as for all its inhabitants.

How can we realise our strive for diets that are both good for the planet and all its inhabitants?

A unique environment

Future Food Utrecht is a hub within Pathways to Sustainability, one of four strategic themes of Utrecht University. Future Food Utrecht offers a unique environment for inter- and transdisciplinary research and education related to food. It serves as a platform for the discovery and implementation of new concepts that contribute to a food system that is healthy, available and reliable for a growing world population, and at the same time sustainable.

Pathways to Sustainability conference session
Interactive session at the Pathways to Sustainability conference 2019 organised by the hub.

Science and society

Future Food Utrecht houses scientists based at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht from various areas of expertise. Each of them contributes to scholarly or societal processes that are essential for the development and implementation of future food systems that are sustainable and have a positive impact on health and the environment.

Connecting interdisciplinary, fundamental research with key stakeholders along four themes

Processes around food

Examples of processes that Future Food Utrecht addresses are enhanced crop resilience, nature inclusive agriculture, consumer behaviour, nutritional interventions to prevent chronic diseases, animal health, food safety, legal frameworks that support the adoption of sustainable food systems or social and cultural dimensions of food transitions, economic trade-offs, and the ethical and justice implications of these transitions.

Research themes

The hub connects the interdisciplinary, fundamental research from Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht with the key stakeholders working on future food. This will be done along four themes. These themes identify the key societal questions at stake that need to be addressed jointly. This will be essential for the development of solutions for societal challenges related to global food systems.

The four complementary themes that the hub will focus on are:

Nature-inspired food production

Our current agricultural system is based on high throughput and high production levels at the lowest possible costs, while disregarding long-term consequences for natural resources, the environment, animal welfare and the socio-economic position of farmers. Nature-inspired production methods may provide a more sustainable and resilient food system that contributes to long-term food security.  Nature-inspired food production requires the development of innovative production methods and production systems, as well as knowledge about the societal and institutional transformations that are needed for a transition to a more sustainable food system.

    Food fairness

    Food fairness is a multidimensional concept and covers the material as well as political, social and environmental dimensions of life. Achieving food security is the primary material concern and refers to the ability to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food. However, a primary focus in many countries of public policy on food security together with market forces have led to large-scale farming, global food chains, and a powerful food industry in the developed countries. It becomes increasingly obvious that the benefits and disadvantages are not equally distributed among all participants in the global food chain. New business models are needed to make the desired transition.

      Immune resilience

        The health of individuals is strongly influenced by intrinsic resilience and optimal immunity. This is not only valid for human health but is equally important for preventing disease in farm animals and crops. Food forms the important connection between agricultural production and human health. Prevention of infectious diseases in animals and crops is of prime importance for sustainable production of healthy food. This entails further reductions in the use of agrochemicals and antibiotics and optimal use of natural protection mechanisms, e.g. genetic improvements and deployment of biologicals. On the consumer side, optimal food choices and new insights from microbiome research can strongly contribute to enhancing immunity and preventing disease.

        Social and cultural change of food behaviour

          The transition to sustainable and healthy diets is urgent and requires not only a drastic transformation of food policies, industry and retail, but also changes in the behaviour of consumers. However, food consumption patterns are deeply rooted in traditions, culture and everyday routines. In diverse fields and on diverse levels, Future Food scientists explore how consumers' food choices are shaped and can be changed; how they process available information about food, be it on labels, in stores or on the media; how consumers can be supported to develop more sustainable food literacy; what sustainable policy measures citizens would accept and under what circumstances; and what the social, psychological and cultural factors are that support a transition to healthier and more sustainable food choices, on an individual, but also a collective level.