Growing demands on farmers to produce more from less mean new ideas, skills and innovations are vital to securing a strong and sustainable future for UK agriculture.

Hunter Chase recruitment consultant Margaret Wilkinson explains why creating new roles for visionary leaders to help meet these challenges are critical to the industry’s success.

According to predictions, by 2050 the world’s population will have risen from 8bn to 9.8bn, and to keep all of those extra people fed with safe, healthy and nutritious food, farmers will need to up their production by 60-100%.

It’s a colossal challenge, made even more difficult when you acknowledge it has to be achieved using less land, less water and fewer inputs.

Factor in the additional challenges of climate change, volatile world markets, and political upheaval, and today’s farmers face some of the toughest times in the history of global agriculture.

To really increase productivity and sustainability we need agricultural development, and that depends on innovation, new expertise and new ways of thinking across all sectors of the agri-food industry.

New solutions

Thankfully, government has recognised the need for new solutions in agriculture, which is why food production – and finding ways to transform it – has been made part of its industrial strategy for the future.

Sitting within the government’s £4.7bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the Transforming Food Production Challenge is set to deliver £90m of investment in the agri-food-tech sector, bringing together industry, food producers and researchers to overhaul our approaches to food production.\

There’s little doubt that achieving that will be a colossal challenge requiring skills and knowledge across a huge variety of areas – from understanding primary production and the supply chain, to recognising the need for precision agriculture, utilising data, developing science and working with allied industries.

It marks an exciting turning point in the way food production has been approached in the UK, but it needs the right people – and the right management – to ensure it is as successful as it can possibly be.

Looking beyond the challenges

It’s for this reason that critical new roles like the UK Research and Innovation Challenge Director are being created in the sector.

The position requires someone with the skills and expertise to co-ordinate a UK-wide programme of research and innovation which doesn’t just span the agri-food-tech industry, but goes beyond it too.

Like many people working in food and farming, the role requires someone who can look beyond the challenges to find ways to shape and deliver the innovation the sector needs, working across industries and the supply chain.

It’s a role that will help deliver a strengthened voice for UK research and innovation, encourage discussion and dialogue with government and partners on a global stage, and above all build on the UK’s world-class research and innovation performance.

For the right person with the vision to see past the challenges to the opportunities that lie ahead, this is a fantastic opportunity to get involved with shaping the future of agriculture at a critical time, helping secure the sector’s future for today and ahead to 2050.