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Leading experts talk at student food security conference

"The students should be really proud of all they achieved, bringing together such a wide range of expertise and crafting their own interventions so carefully throughout the conference"

How a growing global population can be fed sustainably was explored in a student-led conference designed to bring together innovative thinkers. 

The free 2020 Lady Margaret Beaufort Intellectual Connections Conference, organised by undergraduate and postgraduate students and titled A Lot On Our Plate: Food Security in the 21st Century took place in the College on 14 February. The event brought together academics, students and the private sector to discuss themes and challenges in the area of food security.

The conference explored how a growing population can be sustainably fed as well as featuring keynote speakers, a technology-based innovation panel and an interdisciplinary policy panel.

 Prof Paskowski

Professor Uta Paszkowski

Keynote speakers included Dr Shailaja Fennell, Jesus College, and Professor Uta Paszkowski from St John’s. Dr Fennell discussed inequality in an era of climate change, and how the empowerment of women can reduce inequality and boost crop productivity. Professor Paszkowski’s talk covered plant research and food security, and her team’s work at the Cereal Symbiosis Research Group in Cambridge, whose aim is to enhance the ability of plants to take-up nutrients from the soil without relying on inorganic fertilisers.

There were also two panel discussions: Productivity to Policy: How to Feed the Global Community and The Future of Food: Innovating to Feed the World Sustainably. The first discussion was chaired by Professor Bhaskar Vira, Head of Geography at Cambridge and a Fellow at Fitzwilliam College, and covered sustainable consumption, GM crops, and reducing inequality for smallholder farmers. The second panel discussion was chaired by two of the conference organisers, Darius Zarrabian, a PHD candidate in Biotechnology and Bioenergy, and Charlotte Pressdee, a Master’s student studying Economics, and looked at how technological innovations which increase food production and produce food more sustainably can be encouraged and effectively utilised.

panel 1

The conference attendees were also able to try sustainable ‘future foods’, including vegan food bars, provided by Feed, insect trail mix provided by Crunchy Critters, and salmon skin crisps provided by Sea Chips.

Dr Annis May Timpson, Director of Education & Senior Tutor, said: “I would like to really congratulate the team on such an excellent conference. The students should be really proud of all they achieved, bringing together such a wide range of expertise and crafting their own interventions so carefully throughout the conference. They were a pleasure to work with and were incredibly organised from the planning stage all the way through to the delivery.”

Since the conference, the student organisers have been working on establishing stronger links between Cambridge Global Food Security, an interdisciplinary research centre for food security in Cambridge, and the student population. They also hope to build networks among the student body for those passionate about helping to achieve global food security.