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Theme 1: Food supplies

Between October and December 2015, we focused on food and water security and supply chain resilience.

These three meetings were jointly hosted with the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.

This collaboration originated in a Memorandum of Understanding between the University and the JRC which was signed in September 2015 in order to promote and deepen understanding between the two institutions. 'Green Growth and Sustainability' was chosen as the pilot activity and the Forum worked with the JRC Institute for Environment and Sustainability, and University Strategic Initiatives, including the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and the Global Food Security Initiative, to develop a series of meetings and projects to explore potential areas for future collaboration.

The three co-hosted Forum meetings formed a core part of this programme and each month, expert witnesses and guests from the JRC came to Forum meetings and helped to shape the theme as a whole.

Other witnesses and guests were drawn from companies such as Microsoft Research, Vizzuality and Google Deepmind, and Cambridge Conservation Initiative partner organisations, including Fauna and Flora International (FFI), UNEP-WCMC, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and RSPB. Experts in this field also joined us from across the University, including people from the Institute for Manufacturing, the Judge Business School, the Centre for Development Studies and the Cavendish Laboratory.

Taking a global view

In the first meeting in the series in October, we started to explore new ways to bring together 'big' datasets from different sources to assess risk and resilience in food supply chains.  

Our first witness was Professor Alan O'Niell, Emeritus Professor of Meteorology at the University of Reading and the founding Director of the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, is on sabbatical in Cambridge this year. He joined Dr Mukesh Kumar from the Institute for Manufacturing and Steve Peedell, a Senior Scientific Officer in the Land Resource Management Unit from the JRC in Ispra, Italy.

Building up a picture

In November, the witnesses sparked the discussion by providing specific examples to help us to explore ways in which overlaying big data sets and remote sensing can assess and communicate risk and resilience in food supplies and changes in biodiversity.

Our first witness was Dr Francois Kayitakire, a senior scientist at the Joint Research Center (JRC) in the Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IES) based in Ispra, Italy who leads a team working on resilience and on food and nutrition security assessment within the Food Security (FOODSEC) Group.

He joined Dr Matthew Smith, an ecologist working in the Computational Science Lab at Microsoft Research, and Craig Mills, the CEO of Vizzuality, a science and technology company focused on data visualization, web-GIS and tool development on projects related to conservation, the environment and sustainable development.

Catalyzing change

In December, we explored how information from these data sets and the scenarios they generate can be applied in a policy and business context.

Our first witness was Theirry Negre, the Head of the Food Security (FOODSEC) Group within the Monitoring Agricultural Resources (MARS) Unit at the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) who will be coming over from Ispra, Italy.

He joined Professor Jaideep Prabhu, the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and Dr Drew Purves, the former head of the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science group (CEES) at Microsoft Research who has just started working for Google Deepmind.

For more information about these meetings, please follow the links on the right.