Technology, innovation, and responsibilities

We explore how food that is sustainable, safe, affordable, nutritious and ethical is possible through notions of voice, power, technology and innovation within specific institutional contexts. We recognise that sustainable agri-food systems and the innovation they involve require collaboration between diverse actors from different domains and with various agendas as well as individual, organisational, and institutional change. In this context, we are interested in bridging micro- and macro-perspectives to examine:

Voice, power and capacity in shaping sustainable food futures

We examine the everyday practices and methods that various actors use to create or hinder social change, how these practices and methods change over time and how they interact in complementary, supplementary, and competing ways.

Sustainable food futures supported or hindered by innovation and technology

We are exploring the role of technology and innovation in shaping sustainable food futures. This includes identifying technologies and innovations that create new solutions to improve and ensure the quality and affordability of food, water and soils as well as how technology and innovation gives and amplifies voice, power and influence. We also seek to identify how old models and technologies hinder sustainable food. Central to this area of interest is a desire to better understand the processes by which innovative ideas are translated from academia into actual applications and vice versa, as well as the potential benefits and challenges of genuinely transdisciplinary working.

Sustainable food futures in the context of formal and informal institutions

We are examining how institutions influence individual, organisational, community and industry behaviours in relation to sustainable food futures. However, actors are not passive objects of institutional influences and we are interested in examining how actors respond to and shape formal and informal institutions toward sustainable food futures.

Coping with the tensions and paradoxes of sustainable food futures

What sustainable food futures means and how to achieve sustainable agri-food systems varies across space, time and communities. Additionally, collaboration between diverse actors and innovation in technology, processes, and organisational models create new levels of complexity and tensions within and between communities, organisations and industries.  Examining how different actors cope with these challenges tensions, and paradoxes is an essential step toward sustainable food futures.

The role of digitalisation and disruptive technologies in sustainable food futures

The challenges in supplying enough nutritional food to everyone can be achieved in various ways. This can be done through ‘business as usual’ methods of producing food and ignoring its environmental impacts, or by transforming the food supply system, enabled through digitalisation and disruptive technologies. The role of data science and analytics are crucial. In Sheffield, we are pioneering work in this direction, underpinned by a life cycle approach with the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT).  Other projects under this theme use digital technologies such as participatory digital film to encourage dialogue among consumers about food justice and food sovereignty, as well as between consumers and policy makers, procurement officers and company representatives. Participatory digital technologies are being used to help empower disadvantaged consumer groups and small-scale producers in the global South.