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LRF

Future proofing the food supply chain.

In the final part of his article, Vincent Doumeizel talks about Lloyd's Register's vision on future proofing food supply chain

In a previous article, I've talked about issues faced by global brands within the food industry.  At Lloyd's Register, we have a vision. We started out in 1760 as a marine classification society. Today, we're one of the world's leading providers of professional services for engineering and technology - improving safety and increasing the performance of critical infrastructures for clients in over 75 countries worldwide.

The profits we generate fund the Lloyd's Register Foundation (Foundation), a charity which supports engineering-related research, education and public engagement around everything we do. All of this helps us stand by the purpose that drives us every single day: Working together for a safer world.

Our heritage of working with the ocean is driving a number of initiatives looking at how we can continue to feed the growing world population both safely and sustainably.

If we consider how we have really intensified agriculture over the years, we need to remember that we have never really done that for the ocean. Whilst 70% of our planet is covered by the ocean, it only contributes 5% to our food. This is clearly a huge opportunity for growth and development and is termed the Blue Revolution, which refers to the time of intense growth in the worldwide aquaculture industry from the mid-1960s to present. The aquaculture industry has been growing at an average rate of nine-percent a year. Worldwide aquaculture production has now reached 50 million tons, up from two million in 1950. It is worthy to note that a similar growth in land-based agriculture observed in the 1960s and 1970s is commonly referred to as the green revolution.

Back in 2016, LR acquired a company called Acoura, a market-leader in the provision of seafood assurance services. We are leveraging our seafood assurance capability along with our strong marine credentials and charitable status to make the seafood world a bit safer.

  • Considering that by 2050 our oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish and more than 90% of coral reefs are at risk of dying off, LR has recently announced a commitment to ocean sustainability and has become a founding member of the UN Group for Sustainable Ocean Business.
  • The Foundation has also recently published a new insight report on safety in the fishing industry. This latest insight makes a valuable contribution to understanding the safety challenges in the fishing industry. It takes a closer look at where accidents are occurring, why they happen and what steps the Foundation can take to reduce the lives lost in this global industry.

Along with both of these positive developments, the Foundation is also involved in two other projects to drive food safety and sustainability;

1. Back in 2016, the Foundation agreed a £500,000 grant to the world leading food sciences institution, Wageningen University and Research (WUR), supporting the Safe production Of Marine plants and use of Ocean Space (SOMOS). The project was developed jointly between LR, the Foundation and WUR, and was the first project targeted at the food sector to be funded by the Foundation. One of the key areas of focus is looking at feed production from seaweed.

Seaweed has the potential to significantly impact our daily lives;

  • Food source; Seaweed is a magic element; just 2% of the ocean dedicated to seaweed production could feed 12 billion people in protein with no need for any animal protein, that's fantastic, that's absolutely huge.
  • Climate change;
    • Seaweed absorbs 30% of the GHG emissions in the world; so the more you grow seaweed the more GHG you will absorb, the more you will mitigate the climate change.
    • If you still want to enjoy a T-bone steak from time to time, by using seaweed as a source of animal feed, it could cut methane emissions from your livestock by 99%. This is equivalent to stopping each car on the planet overnight because the GHG emissions from livestock equals those from cars, so that's a massive benefit as well.
  • Sustainability;
    • Many of you may have read media reports of being able to buy shoes made from seaweed. A new start-up known as Algiknit is creating textiles from sustainable materials and other major brands are also pioneering new approaches to production, with Adidas recently unveiling sports shoes being made from recycled ocean waste.
    • The bottle of water I am holding is just one tangible example of this new approach to sustainability in action. It is an edible bottle of water made of seaweed; there's a start-up in London working with the manufacturer to replace plastic glasses as well. The first bottle of water made out of seaweed was recently designed by an Icelander.
  • Medicine and fuel
    • Seaweed can contribute to medicine and it can be a source of energy.
  • Fresh water supply
    • Seaweed is the only element that grows in salt water - it doesn't need anything just sun and salt water and with 70% of our planet covered with the ocean, we have enough growing space! Best of all, when you squeeze seaweed what you get is fresh water, so you can actually use seaweed as a source of portable water.

We are living in a new generation; millennials born around 2000 are approaching food in a different way;

  • Food makes them what they are - as it does all of us.
  • They are ready to pay a premium to get the food they want.
  • They want food that is healthy but not only that, they want sustainable food, they want it free from modern slavery and free from GM.
  • They want animal welfare.

2. So at LR we support these ambitions; we are focused on securing 'the millenial vote'. So along with our seaweed project, the second initiative from the Foundation is a Foresight Review on food safety. The review will address food safety across the short and longer term, looking at trends and challenges for society in the safe and secure production of food across the entire supply chain. It will take a global perspective and will make recommendations on research, innovation, education, policy and practice needed to plan for a healthy and safe future for all and anyone interested in participating can register their interest here.

The role of technology and innovation

Underpinning much of what I have highlighted here is technology and innovation. At LR, we talk about our purpose of delivering smart solutions shaped with human intelligence and we help businesses evolve by connecting them with tomorrow's thinking, today.

Our technical experts are dedicated to assurance. That means a commitment to embracing new technology and a deep rooted desire to drive better performance. So we consider our customer's needs with diligence and empathy, then use our expertise and over 250 years' experience to deliver the smart solution for everyone.

  • Blockchain
    • One of our key areas of focus is the innovation that can come from data-science, specifically blockchain. Blockchain has the capacity to create a global ecosystem and deliver traceability to the food system. There is a lot of talk - and I would say that on a global level - the system is not yet mature, but LR is developing blockchain solutions across multiple sectors, as well as food.
    • Blockchain has the potential to deliver choice to the consumer; it enables them to make informed decisions as to the food that they buy is safe to eat and sustainabily sourced - all of which is underpinned with robust assurance.
    • Secondly, there is no doubt in my mind that the amount of money being invested into blockchain by organisations will continue to rise - across all sectors, not just food.
    • However, that investment is largely speculative in as much that we are within the realms of experimentation and we need to move to actual implementation. At LR we continue to watch developments very closely and we see that industry collaboration with best in class organisations to deliver blockchain solutions is key.
    • I also believe that we will see the emergence of connected assets via the Internet of Things and blockchain; our fridges may well be able to tell us exactly where the fruit juice came from whilst giving us the calorific content of each glass as we pour it from the integrated drinks dispenser.
  • Driving consumer assurance with genome sequencing and microbiome
    • We have ten times more bacteria in our guts than we have human cells in our body so we are much more a bacteria being than a human being! Our range of DNA test-based services from product authentication through to being assured as non-GMO, all underpinned by the latest technology from Clear Labs - our Silicon Valley based partner - and DNA1, means that Lloyd's Register can drive consumer trust in brands, whilst reducing the risk of costly recalls for manufacturers.
      • DNA1 is based on two key elements; the first is a New Genomic Sequencing (NGS) DNA test that is carried out independently by Clear Labs on the food product at batch level. This confirms the product's contents, origins and composition.
      • Secondly LR conducts an independent management system audit with certification to ensure that the product that is DNA1 assured by batch number; put simply we ensure that it is from the same batch that has been tested.
      • When a product displays the DNA1 Assurance mark it also carries a QR Code, consumers can scan this code and instantly view LR's DNA1 Certificate of Assurance for the product, detailing the brand, product name, 'SKU' number and batch/lot number that has passed the NGS DNA test for either '100% Authenticity' or 'Non-GMO'.

So these are just two examples about the role of technology and innovation in meeting the objective to make food a human right available to everyone.

Summary

We should not be negative about the future; the world is waking up to the challenges we are all facing and we as an industry should be proud of what we've done, but we cannot rest. Do you think 800 million people that are starving would feel proud or the 2.5 billion people suffering from obesity would feel the same? No, they would not. At LR, we believe that we need another revolution in the food business and importantly, we have the tools to make it, and we can make it happen.

So LR will invest; through the Foundation, we will invest into research, into innovation, into education to accelerate this change. We as Lloyd's Register will do what it takes as well; we will harness this incredibly rich food expertise from our auditors all around the world. We will leverage this 300 years of experience in assurance. We'll leverage incredibly disruptive new technologies to create a transparent and traceable food system.

But the most important part lies with you, with all of us. You and I we are connected together by the same food system and we are the driver of the change. So all together, we can vote for the world we want to live in each time we eat and drink something and need to remember that there are those who cannot yet vote because they are deprived of their right to food.

At LR, we recognise that we should be remembered as the first generation on this planet that managed to create a food system capable to feed the entire population with safe and sustainable food.

Through LR's technology, innovation and vision - we will help to deliver against that goal.

Information about LR's wide range of food assurance services can be found here.

Interested in finding out how we can help your organisation?

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