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Tomatoes, eggs, cereals, meat. Food processing workshop in Nantes. © Christophe Rocle

Towards sustainable food production: the SUSFOOD ERA-Net

Updated on 07/04/2017
Published on 03/13/2014

INRA is coordinating the European SUSFOOD ERA-Net.  This project, which involves 25 partners from 16 countries, aims to better coordinate research in member countries focused on scientific issues linked to food sustainability.

The principal question is how to feed the world today and in the demographic context of the 21st century while integrating the notion of "sustainability" in this objective.  The SUSFOOD ERA-Net (1) (2011-2014) aims to better coordinate European research to develop more sustainable food systems, from production to consumption.  It focuses in particular on food chain sustainability beyond the farm gate.

More specifically, SUSFOOD covers three research areas:

  • the valorisation of food products and agricultural raw materials,
  • engineering of the food production chain,
  • consumer preferences and behaviour,

and integrates two transversal questions:

  • equality and ethics,
  • the localisation of activities in the food chain.

The project follows on from several strategic and foresight studies:

  • The SCAR (2) report on sustainable food consumption and production in a resource-constrained world,
  • The DuALIne foresight study,
  • The Agrimonde foresight study (CIRAD, INRA),
  • And the Sustainable Food Systems programme (Alid) initiated by the French National Research Agency (ANR).

It is contributing to the ANR project on "Food security and the demographic challenge" and the H2020 societal challenge.

Alongside INRA, other French partners include the ANR and the French Network of Food Technology Institutes (ACTIA), with support from the Ministries for Research and Agriculture.

For the full list of partners, go to: List of SUSFOOD partners

(1) ERA-Nets are thematic research networks coordinating national or regional actions.
(2) SCAR: Standing Committee for Agricultural Research, is a strategic coordination body comprising ministerial representatives from 27 European countries

A three-pronged strategy

  • To construct an overview of existing research and the teams involved in it, using an open web-based archive: Meta Knowledge Base (MKB), which will permit the mapping and formulation of research needs.  The MKB also offers a tool for partnering.
  • Once these research needs have been identified, to develop a strategic research agenda (SRA) that determines research priorities and provides foundations for transnational calls for projects.
  • To initiate transnational research actions: two calls for projects in 2013 and 2014.

SUSFOOD website

Definition of food sustainability

The SUSFOOD ERA-Net defines sustainable food systems as supporting food security, making optimum use of natural and human resources and respecting biodiversity and ecosystems for present and future generations.  These food systems must be culturally acceptable and accessible, and environmentally and economically sound, and provide consumers with nutritionally adequate, safe, healthy and affordable food.

INRA's commitment

Beyond research work by its units, INRA is collectively committed to the theme of sustainable food systems, on several fronts:

  • Through foresight workshops such as DuALIne and Agrimonde (coordinated by INRA and CIRAD).
  • Through the organisation of multidisciplinary programmes within the Institute: the DID’IT (Diet Impacts and Determinants: Interactions and Transitions), and Glofoods  (Transitions to Global Food Security) metaprogrammes. 
  • Through the organisation of researcher schools and seminars.
  • Through participation in joint programming initiatives: FACCE (Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change) and HDHL (A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life).

INRA's coordinators of this ERA-Net: