By 2050, the world's population will be an estimated 9.7bn people, up from today’s 7.7bn. To feed this growing population whilst also protecting the climate and biodiversity, our food system needs to change dramatically. In May, we look at what sort of future food system we want and how to get there. We speak to sustainability expert Prof. Peter Jackson about how lockdowns have exposed our reliance on fragile supply chains, and what needs to happen to shape a more sustainable food system. We look at the smart farming solutions that are being explored to support food producers, and urban experiments from tackling food waste to strengthening organic, local production to see how these efforts can be scaled up to make a big difference. And we investigate insects – a protein-rich food and feed source – and the efforts behind mainstreaming what is still a niche science.
How do you feed a city? It is one of the great questions of our time. After all, for a species that ultimately depends on plants to feed ourselves, we do tend to cram ourselves into places that are rather unfriendly towards them. Our cities are built around cars, offices and perhaps the odd park – not fields of crops.
Insects in products such as pasta or bread, microalgae, and single-cell proteins derived from wood could feed and nourish humans and animals in the future. Now, those exploring alternative proteins for more sustainable eating are working out how to make the switch to bug-based food a reality.
Europe urgently needs to make its food system more sustainable – or else face growing food insecurity and health impacts – and the coronavirus pandemic offers us an opportunity to push for change, according to Professor Peter Jackson.
This month we hear from the next generation of scientists and researchers in Europe about how they’re shaping the future, what they see as urgent research priorities to tackle global challenges, and the impact of the pandemic. From biodiversity to how to make industry greener, and the digital divide to the future of work, our stories reflect some of the issues that will be under discussion at the European Commission’s annual Research & Innovation Days conference at the end of June. We look at the impact of Europe’s pandemic response on vulnerable populations, ask five young bioeconomy researchers what this economy really is and how we get there, examine what new business models mean for the future of work, and more.
How do you design and build a robot that you can’t even see? And what would you use it for? In May, Horizon explores the developing field of nanorobotics and its potential applications. We speak to Prof. Brad Nelson at ETH Zurich in Switzerland whose team found that the nanobots they were working on destroyed the drugs they were meant to be delivering, so are now repurposing them to purify water. We speak to researchers who are using the origami-like properties of DNA to make tools such as nanorobotic boxes with lids that open, and others that have created a molecular robotic arm that can pick up, reposition and release molecules. And because tasks like going into a blood vessel to dissolve a dangerous clot would be ideal for a nanorobot, we find out how scientists are devising ways to enable nanorobots to travel through the bloodstream.
Microscopic organisms known as extremophiles inhabit some of the last places on Earth you might expect to find life, from the extreme pressures of the ocean floor to freezing ice caps. Understanding how these microbes survive by interacting with different metals and gases is opening up new knowledge about Earth’s elements and their potential uses.
A circular bioeconomy – which turns renewable biological resources and waste streams into new products – is at the heart of the EU’s efforts to slash its carbon emissions while also maintaining economic growth. But what does a bioeconomy look like and how do we get there?
Researchers are investigating links between microbes and rare earth elements.
We asked five young bioeconomy researchers to set out their vision.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.