The Great Debate 2018 - Engineering Better Food System

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Talk or debate
12 March 2018 18:00 - 21:00
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The annual prestige event will consist of four short talks by experts in the field followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of a panel formed by the speakers and to offer their own views. To register for the event:

Modern agriculture uses a lot of energy and resources: fuel and fossil-derived fertilisers on the farm, fuel for transport, plastics for packaging and energy for refrigerated storage with waste arising at each stage.  What can engineering do to improve sustainability of agriculture and food production as the world population increases?

Chairman: Professor Stuart Green, University of Reading

Pressures influencing food production:  Dr Eugene Mohareb, University of Reading

There are many pressures on conventional agriculture with climate change a particular challenge but urbanisation and other pressures on land use also having an impact.  This talk will discuss these aspects and explain the challenge we face.

Waste: Dr Tim Fox, Chairman IMechE Food and Drink Engineering Committee

Studies have shown that up to 50% of food grown is currently lost or discarded between the field and the consumer.  Food production is also estimated to account for 30% of energy consumption globally. Wastage both of food and energy occurs at each stage of the process and there are already simple measures that can be introduced to reduce this waste. 

Automation: Professor Simon Blackmore, Harper Adams University

Automation and robotisation of agriculture offers many potential societal benefits.  Machinery can be smaller and lighter and carryout operations with greater accuracy and only where sensors indicate that action is required.  The result is improved yields of usable crops with less energy expended and less damage to the environment.

Non-conventional farming: Tom Webster, GrownUp Urban Farms Ltd

Production of food other than via conventional agriculture is already well established with hydroponics and vertical growing techniques.  This offers benefits of low energy and wastage as well as production close to the consumer for some items.  How far can this approach be extended?


Chaired by Prof. Stuart Green, Professor of Construction Management and Head of the School of the Built Environment at the University of Reading.


Palmer Building
University of Reading
Shinfield Road
United Kingdom

Contact Details

Jenny Mistry

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