Written evidence submitted by Dr David Redpath School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Queen’s University Belfast (FS0039)


Introduction to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and submission rationale

QUB was ranked joint 1st for research intensity in the UK’s 2022 University guide, the Bryden Centre based in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering has been actively researching bio energy to support the agri-food production sector and the development of a more circular economy approach to reduce pollution, increase food supply chain resilience and increase economic output from this sector. Its zero-carbon cooperative initiative is supported by the UK Government’s community renewal fund. This investigates using unused wastes to provide district heating for homes and industry; heat, nutrients, and feeds for novel forms of farming; and heat, CO2, and nutrients to an algal biorefinery producing biochemicals and biofuels. Essentially generating increased prosperity from using waste products for production of power, food, chemicals etc reducing imports and improving UK self-sufficiency in many sectors.


  1. What are the key factors affecting the resilience of food supply chains and causing disruption and rising food prices – including input costs, labour shortages and global events? What are the consequences for UK businesses and consumers?


Input Costs:

Rising costs of electricity, fuel, required inputs


Labour shortages will impact the ability to harvest seasonal agricultural produce


Global events

The Ukraine, fuel costs, commodity costs, economic downturn


Impacts on UK business


Agricultural sector- increased production costs for food, from fuel, electricity and fertilizer price increases, labour shortages will increase labour input costs

Green Agriculture technology- emerging technologies such as vertical farming will suffer increased production costs if using grid electricity, however this is an opportunity for expansion of this sector enhancing food supply chain resilience reducing disruption and changes in food prices as productivity can be up to 500 times greater than conventional agriculture, integration of vertical farming with aquaponics is an opportunity to eliminate inputs of polluting artificial fertilizers and pesticides reducing production costs and pollution.  This system can be automated to mitigate labour shortages or UK citizens can be used to provide the skilled labour required to operate these.

Fertilizer manufacturers –electricity prices, this industry requires the energy intensive Haber-Bosch process, rises reduce profitability

Retailers – food products for sale will increase in cost or might not be available impacting profits

Electricity supply network- Grid electricity costs will increase if more renewables are added as grid augmentation is needed unless local energy storage or grid flexing arrangements are in place

Renewable energy supply companies- Increased electricity prices will drive the uptake of cheaper production methods not reliant on gas supplies such as biomethanisation increasing profitability and resilience of supply for the UK


Impacts on UK consumers

Increased cost of food and decreased availability of certain food stuffs, will reduce the disposable income of UK consumers unless alternatives are deployed rapidly to increase domestic food production, this will also negatively impact UK food retailers.


  1. What is the outlook for UK food price inflation in the short and medium term? What policy interventions should the Government consider to manage these pressures?


If no policy interventions are made such as providing support for emerging technological solutions for increased food productivity in the UK agricultural sector, then food price inflation in the short to medium term will definitely increase.


The following policy interventions are necessary and implementation should be accelerated to mitigate food price inflation.



  1. How are the rising cost of living and increasing food prices affecting access to healthy and nutritious food?


Less affluent consumers will have reduced access to choosing healthy and nutritious food as they will be compelled to buy lower cost less healthy alternatives


  1. How will the proposals in the Government’s food strategy policy paper affect:


By implementing the proposed 3 objectives in the Government’s food strategy policy paper the likely impacts on;

    1. the resilience of food supply chains?
    2. the agri-food and seafood sectors?
    3. access to healthy, nutritious food?


Objective 1 implementation will have positive impacts on increasing all three above mentioned factors though if a local workforce could be developed this would be better for UK business and citizens.


Objective 2 implementation will also have positive impacts on increasing all three above mentioned factors as well as reducing current environmental impacts from food production.


Objective 3 implementation could possibly have negative impacts on the resilience of local food supply if lower cost imports are used alternatively then this increases our reliance on other external sovereign states for food supplies. This would reduce the incentive to develop technology for producing currently imported food domestically through use of innovative agricultural technologies which currently require government support to bolster and increase their uptake







  1. Is the current level and target of food self-sufficiency in England still appropriate?


Northern Ireland currently produces the protein equivalent annually to support 10 million people, by making use of the resources available in each UK region food self sufficiency in England will also improve. The research currently and previously undertaken in QUB has demonstrated that food self-sufficiency in the UK can be improved at the same time as its sustainability as well as producing rural employment opportunities



  1. How could the Government’s proposed land use strategy for England improve food security? What balance should be stuck between land use for food production and other goals – such as environmental benefit?


By adopting technologies such as vertical farming which can boost productivity up to 500 times that of conventional agriculture a balance between these interests could be more easily attained. Restoration of traditional wetlands such as the fens will not only reduce flooding but will enable these to act as a carbon sink and increase biodiversity. Additionally, development of new technology will increase export capacity, bolster rural communities and help meet our international obligations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as outlined in the UK’s 5th carbon budget


Dr D Redpath, QUB,