Sustainability of food production, an international perspective



I had a fabulous time with the Nutrition Science first year students of MMU last week when I was invited to give a guest lecture during #gogreenweek


The students are having a series of sustainability lectures over this term and for their assignment, they will look at how they can make their own diets more sustainable.

Sustainability Bingo


Surprisingly, they hadn’t already played sustainability bingo! I have attended so many lectures on food systems, sustainability and how we will feed the world’s population that it would be rude not to include an example bingo card of what you should be able to tick off in any sustainability lecture, worth its salt.

Sustainability BINGO

Of course, the students all knew that by 2050, the world’s population will be 9.5 billion so that was an easy one, however, I went on to tell them about the 6 countries I visited during the Nuffield Global Focus Programme last year.

The tour focused on Japan but went via Singapore, Indonesia and from Japan onto Israel, the UK and USA. I explained to the students how each country has its challenges and strengths, from Singapore, a net importer of 100% of its fruit and vegetables but a significant player in import and export of food in the ASEAN region. Indonesia, with its young population, 20% annual economic growth and examples of sustainable mixed farming systems alongside mono-cropped palm oil production which compared with rapeseed and soybean, yields more efficiently.

We discussed the ageing population of Japan and how young people are being encouraged into farming with new technology but compared to Israel who are ranked number 4 in the world for start-up businesses, the Japanese have some way to go. Consumption of locally grown food was a practice that impressed me from a sustainable point of view in both countries.

I focussed on technology when talking about protected crop production in the UK where some businesses use Combined Heat Power plants to generate electricity and CO2 for their crops. The introduction of anaerobic digesters throws up the question ‘is it better to grow crops just for human food or is growing crops for energy production a sustainable use of land?

The USA was the final leg of my tour and I talked about the efficiency of large scale cheap food production as well as the inability of the poorest people to be able to afford food.

The students have some new information to be able to make some more informed choices about sustainable diets and I was very impressed that the nutrition science programme takes a broad view of food systems and encourages thinking in this way.


Thanks to Haleh Moravej, Senior Lecturer at MMU for facilitating



What makes a good business?

Nuffield Japan GFP – what makes a good business?

Japan GFP
Japan GFP

I spent 46 days travelling as a group of 11 international Nuffield Farming Scholars through Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Israel, UK and USA.

I saw that the successful businesses share certain key practises and I have shared them in this video.

Click on the link at the top to find out….

The only source of knowledge is experience…..

The first leg for the Nuffield Farming trip to Japan was Singapore. The UK scholars touched down in Chiang airport and caught up with colleagues from Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Brazil and Australia.


Day one was an opportunity to build on work we had done at the conference in Brasilia on personality, stress and team work. My take home message from this was that having a strategy for managing life events is key to a quick recovery when things go wrong.

Day two focused on Singapore’s place in the ASEAN economy. The country is integral to providing a link between businesses in countries such as Australia who want to trade in the region. Their list of trade deals around the world is impressive and no doubt they will be looking to establish a deal with the UK in future. One of the international businesses based there is the credit risk insurer NCI trade solutions. The CEO explained to us how they facilitate trade between countries such as China and Brazil by provided credit insurance for the seller.

My primary focus as I go round the different countries is to look at the good supply chain and nutrition but my take home message from day 2 is to look wider than my subject area.

Day three was spent at the Syngenta office for APAC (Asian Pacific Countries).
It was interesting to compare the strategies for Europe and APAC as the customers have fundamentally different needs. There are 450 million APAC growers who are generally rural, small scale and do not have a lot of knowledge or finance. Syngenta focuses it’s Good Growth Plan programme on food waste, biodiversity and health. In Europe food waste at the farm level is lower than it is in the APAC countries and there are systems and technology in place to keep losses to a minimum, environmental policies exist in various forms to protect the land and users of chemical plant protection products undergo certified training. The same systems are not in place in APAC and is where Syngenta can add value.

The time in Singapore passed very quickly but we managed to make time to explore in the evenings and the highlight for me was the Garden City at night.

We have moved onto Indonesia for 5 days but the experience of being in Singapore has been enriching as well as building on my knowledge of ASEAN.