Defining new directions for funding interdisciplinary research on sustainable agriculture

Dr. Katrin Prager joins international workshop to address sustainability challenges in agricultural food production

The Novo Nordisk Foundation based in Denmark is best known for its medical research but they have recently expanded their focus to sustainable agriculture as part of their vision to contribute to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society.

Dr. Katrin Prager was invited to join Novo Nordisk’s first international workshop on this topic from 6-8 Dec 2021. A group of scientists with backgrounds ranging from genetics to economics, based in the US, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and the UK, worked through the WHY, WHAT and HOW of addressing sustainability challenges of agricultural food production.

There was a recognition that agricultural production is part of the wider food system, which means that changes need to involve consumer choices and diets, as well as a mix of regulation and incentives for actors in the value chain such as processors and retailers. For the farmer and producer side, there was agreement on the importance to integrate crop and livestock systems, favour crops with low need for external inputs, and enhance diversity in varieties and cropping systems. The group also identified the potential of technologies such as robotics, plasma agriculture and less-energy intensive ways of producing nitrogen (a key fertiliser in plant production), to reduce the negative impact on the environment. Outputs of the workshop are written up in a report that will guide the Foundation’s future investment in research.

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