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Global Food Systems Institute

Global Food Systems Institute

Adapting and Resilience to Emerging Issues

This cross-cutting approach aims to:

  • Explore the impact of emerging issues or events on various aspects of the food systems.
  • Explore the use of new or alternative technologies and approaches to improve performance of food system.

There is a wide range of events that act as triggers of change. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent example, but others include policy changes such as trade barriers and changes in immigration. Emerging issues disrupt food systems in different ways, for example the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in worldwide lockdowns that severely affected food supply and demand systems.

According to the World Bank, Global food prices rose significantly, consistent with broad movements of other commodity prices and US currency trends[1]. Higher food prices often combined with reduced income has comprised nutrition in many households. Changes in immigration policies in the US directly impacted seasonal labor forces hired for harvesting resulting in losses at the production level and often disruption in the supply chain for certain commodities.

However, it is important to realize that emerging issues can positively impact food systems and help develop more sustainable food systems. The dramatic increase in e-commerce for food, catalyzed by the COVID-19 restrictions, is having long-term implications for food systems globally from China to Europe to Africa.  For example, mobile phone-based, person-to-person payment and money transfer system such as MPesa has improved food security for many smallholders in Kenya. 

There are also important food technology developments that have the potential to drastically change food systems. For example, artificial intelligence can optimize source and efficiency from production through the supply chain. Any GFSI related research in this area will contribute to and build on other AI-related work by the UF. The use of robots and drones in production, processing and distribution of food will only increase and further change food systems.  Other game-changing technologies include creating novel food and feeds from single cell organisms, algae and insects, designing food using precision biology, and the rapidly growing use of large-scale, land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems.

Areas of interest:

  • Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on food systems.
  • Improving the efficiency of resource use and reducing food waste in the global supply chain using AI and other innovations.
  • The role of aquaculture innovations in the future of food.
  • Which developments will have the greatest impact on existing food systems?


GFSI Leads for the Emerging Issues cross-cutting approach are Saskia Hendrickx and James Anderson