“We [food scientists] have some of the most important jobs on this planet,” said Noble, as he introduced the Institute of Food Science & Technology's spring conference titled: ‘Your future role in food: embracing advances in technology’.
“Our responsibility is to nourish the world's population and ensure the economy stays strong food is usually about 15–20% of any nation's economy – and also to take care of the planet on the way through.”
Food scientists, in collaboration with other experts, using advances in understanding and technology, probably hold answers to many of the huge problems we face, added Noble.
‘Pre- and post-farm gate’
“The answers we need to those challenges are not going to exist in our old world of pre- and post-farm gate,” he claimed.
“The modern world is much more complicated and to answer these challenges we have to see it as an interconnected, interdependent system to find the solutions. That means collaborating; that means open connectivity; that means working in partnership with unusual partners.”
Politicians focused on “primary agriculture”, worth about £9–10bn to the nation and costing £3bn in subsidies.
But the value-added part of the food chain contributed much more and, therefore, deserved more support, he added.
‘Worth £113.1bn by 2018–19’
A study from Research and Markets published in 2015 predicted that UK food and drink manufacture would be worth £113.1bn by 2018–19.
“Unless we stand up and start pushing for change, the current focus will remain on the primary side of the equation,” argued Noble. “Anyone who can do maths can see where the value is being added.”
He outlined the sustainability challenges facing the global food supply chain – from increasing pressures on raw materials, land availability and water resources for food production, to the need to reduce food waste.
“Waste equals inefficiency, which offers opportunities,” he added. “We use between three and 35 calories of energy to produce a calorie of food,” said Noble.