Food security will be a defining issue in supporting a world population set to grow rapidly in the coming decades. There simply aren’t enough resources currently to feed a population expected to be at 9.5 billion by 2050.

The problem

Feeding the world also has a tremendous environmental impact: global agricultural emissions grew by 8 per cent between 1990 and 2010 and they are expected to grow further, by 15 per cent above 2010 levels by 2030. At this point, they will amount to almost 7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

Most of these increases are driven by the shifting composition of diets in developing countries, and the corresponding population growth in these regions. The rise in agricultural emissions will be particularly acute across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa: these two areas will account for around two-thirds of the increase in food demand over the first half of the 21st century.

Novel solutions will supplement the transformation of the feed industry, leading to increasing food security and diminishing environmental impacts — in aquaculture and beyond. First, we need to find out which ones will be the most effective and fast track their development to global markets.

The solution

EIT Climate-KIC is co-funding and supporting the Feed-X project, which aims to revolutionise alternative feed solutions for aquaculture. The project is part of a wider initiative known as Project X, which will accelerate development across other global industries over the next decade in a bid to reverse biodiversity decline and climate change.

Its central idea is to shift 10 per cent of the global feed industry towards more sustainable production, drawing on novel alternative solutions by independent entrepreneurs. These solutions will be chosen due to their focus on reducing harmful environmental effects from deforestation, high carbon footprints and irresponsible fishing practices.

With the financial and technical support brought in by so many partners, Feed-X hopes to realise its vision of removing the barriers to sustainably fed, affordable food by 2025. It will source, test, finance and scale alternative solutions to aquaculture feed, specifically salmon and shrimp. Successful entrepreneurs will be provided rare access to markets, fast-tracking the development of promising alternative feed ingredients and technologies, and thrusting them into commercial opportunities to bring their solutions to a global scale, at speed.

The impact

At this point, Feed-X has selected 10 successful innovators that have produced exciting developments in oils that have higher omega 3 content, proteins sourced from insects as well as single-celled protein mixes. The chosen innovators will be working with established research groups and organisations to identify the environmental impacts of each solution as they become clear. Throughout the process, the environmental and ethical credentials of each of the companies will also be verified and certified.

The next steps are to work out the journeys for each of the selected innovations to include test, validation and testing at scale, so that the best three can be scaled to commercial levels.  In parallel the Feed-X team wants to finalise and implement its knowledge transfer programme: rolling out solutions to other feed industries, effectively shift 10 per cent of the feed industry, circa 107 million tonnes of feed to having better sustainability performance.

Food production is increasingly at risk from climate impacts. For food businesses, working with a greater diversity of producers can help lessen this risk. At the same time, smallholder farmers, without credit and insurance, suffer when harvests fail. Combining production inputs to boost yields, with credit and insurance can help provide security for smallholders and offer food buyers a way to engage with potential
new suppliers.

EIT Climate-KIC’s role

The EIT Climate-KIC had a clear financial impact through direct funding of the initiative. Yet more importantly, it provided connection to EIT Climate-KIC partners ecosystem and supported further the development of the proposal with a wide diversity of partners coming from academia and offering a unique expertise in the field, access to the innovator databases and as a strategic partner, communications and general sounding board for ideas.

The EIT Climate-KIC staff have reviewed reports and also supported the evaluation and selection process of the innovations. There have been several discussions about programme expansion, and EIT Climate-KIC is offering further support for this as the initiative develops and progresses to further stages.