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Net Zero food and farming challenges considered at launch of University’s Global Policy Forum

Posted 11 November

“As the UK’s largest provider of graduate talent to the farming and food industries, and as a significant contributor of research and innovation, including through our own Future Farm, Harper Adams has a responsibility to step up and help to identify and disseminate practical solutions to the pressing problems we face."

Harper Adams Chair of Governors Peter Nixon, Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal and Rabobank CEO Will Jennings enjoying the debate

Harper Adams Chair of Governors Peter Nixon, Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal and Rabobank CEO Will Jennings enjoying the debate

Leading voices have gathered to consider the challenges in achieving Net Zero in farming and food at the launch of the Harper Adams University Global Policy Forum.

At the same time as World Leaders gathered in Egypt for the COP 27 conference, the panel of thought leaders from across the agricultural and food sectors were gathered together to consider the challenges of transforming each, both in the UK and globally.

Each an expert in their area, they considered the challenges of making the goal of achieving net zero realistic and attainable for every day farmers and food producers.

Broadcaster Julia Bradbury chaired a lively discussion between the panellists, who were the Director of Food Matters International Judith Batchelar OBE; Director at Carbon Metrics and Harper Adams alumna, Helen Dent; Professor of Food Policy at City University Timothy Lang; and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Harper Adams University, Professor Michael Lee.

Speaking afterwards, Julia said: “The importance of debating these issues can’t be underestimated. It’s crucial that we find remedies to these complex problems and it’s clear we need cross-sector co-operation from Government, agriculture & food supply chains.   

“The evening’s debate highlighted that solutions are vital – for our health, and the health of our animals, plants and planet.

“Chairing a debate between some of the expert voices who are working to make that difference was fascinating – the way we consider these issues is one of the key challenges we face.”

The event –before an audience of figures across the food and faming sectors – was held at Rabobank’s London headquarters thanks to the bank’s generous support as host.

It was the first event held as part of the ongoing Harper Adams University Global Policy Forum, a new initiative to increase the University’s engagement with Government, policy makers, business leaders and other opinion formers. 

It also marked the first anniversary of the launch of the School of Sustainable Food and Farming, an initiative developed jointly with McDonalds UK&I, Morrisons and the NFU, which aims to educate, inspire and empower current and future farmers to achieve net-zero within a sustainable farming and food system.

Harper Adams University’s Chancellor, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, also attended the debate, sharing her views after the panel’s discussion.

Her Royal Highness also met with the panel and a number of key partners and delegates at a reception following the debate including partners in the School of Sustainable Food and Farming, staff from Rabobank, staff and students from Harper Adams University, and a group of young people with interests in the food and farming sector, including pupils from Westminster Academy in West London.

The pupils visited Harper Adams earlier this year for an ‘eye-opening’ insight into all things food and farming – which was filmed for BBC TV’s Countryfile – and were invited to the event to pose their questions to the panel.

Rabobank CEO Will Jennings said: “The transition of the UK and Global Food system towards Net Zero is the challenge of our times.

“Collaboration across the food and agri sector, and actually across all parts of society, policy and industry, is integral to finding holistic and meaningful solutions to this challenge. Achieving net zero requires us to consider every aspect of our lives and will impact every aspect of our lives. The role of the food and agribusiness sector in that is enormous.

“It was a privilege for Rabobank to host HRH The Princess Royal, Harper Adams and the School of Sustainable Food and Farming, and all our clients and partners for the inaugural Global Policy Forum.

“Our partnership with Harper Adams is something we are incredibly proud of and events such as this show just what a powerful impact collaboration can have. “

Closing the debate, Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan thanked Her Royal Highness, Mr Jennings and Rabobank’s staff, the panellists and Ms Bradbury -and all those who attended the debate.

He told the audience: “It has been a challenging twelve months for the farming and food sector, with Covid, inflation and the war in Ukraine putting even more obstacles in the way of us getting nutritious, affordable food to our own, and the World’s population, in the most sustainable way we can. 

“As the UK’s largest provider of graduate talent to the farming and food industries, and as a significant contributor of research and innovation, including through our own Future Farm, Harper Adams has a responsibility to step up and help to identify and disseminate practical solutions to the pressing problems we face. 

“We are currently finalising a new strategic plan for the university and our vision for Harper Adams 2030 will put greater emphasis on collaboration, global engagement and thought leadership alongside the strengths for which we are already known.

“Our Chancellor highlighted the local and international significance of this topic, including examples from Her Royal Highness’s trip to Uganda.  The programmes and projects the University delivers in Africa, including the partnership we have with the Marshall Papworth Foundation and our recent connection to Teyapi for Peace in the Teso Region of Uganda, demonstrates the need for practical on the ground solutions that farmers and producers in all settings can deploy.

“This is why tonight we are launching a Harper Adams University Global Policy Forum.  In the coming months and years we will play a more active role in connecting opinion leaders and organisations so that together we can influence policy and change for the better. 

"I hope you will all be with us as part of that journey.”

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