JFC speaks at City Food Lecture 2022

March 23, 2022

Our founder and CEO James Lloyd-Jones was recently invited to speak at City Food Lecture 2022, one of the most prestigious events in the food industry’s annual calendar. The audience included HRH Princess Anne as well as more than 600 industry leaders across the UK food and agricultural industry from independent and national retailers, to academics and students who are forming the next generation of leaders.

James sat on a panel with other industry leaders including Rich Clothier of Wyke Farms and Fraser McKevitt of Kantar, with the discussion chaired by BBC1’s Countryfile presenter Charlotte Smith. The conversation was focused on embracing change as we enter a new defining decade for produce and food, with questions on how we can find ways to feed the world while protecting the planet. 

Vertical farming is genuinely solving a host of the challenges the world is facing in regards to food and produce at this time. James goes into detail:

Sustainability:

“I came into the industry as an industry disruptor to challenge the current agricultural model, which we’ve always seen as an advantage. Therefore, we’ve built and grown using green energy from the start, and whilst renewables for us have always been good for business and part of our ethos, now the challenge is how we tell the public and our customers what we’re doing. We want to share how vertical farming answers a lot of the sustainability problems that traditional farming faces when it comes to carbon emissions.”

Food production:

“We take a long term view in terms of how vertical farming will be able to solve many of the UK’s food production issues, but we’re also working tirelessly to ensure we’re innovating now to ensure scale and accessibility. Whilst investment in innovation can be seen as a short term ‘hardship’, ultimately the scientific and technological advancement that will come about as a result will benefit the consumer from a price perspective on our produce. 

“It’s about being brave, taking a risk, failing, and starting again - which is difficult to do in the business environment, but is key to success. Within 10 years, we’d love to be at a point where consumers can really see where their food has come from, and we’re able to depend on UK food production and look at vertical farming as a cost-effective way of sourcing those supplies.”

Consumer perception:

“Consumers are currently very devolved from their consumption process, but there are a lot of young  people who will make more active and environmentally thoughtful decisions on food purchase and taking a more ‘plant based’ approach is a quickly increasing trend in terms of market share. As this generation gets older, this thought process will become even more prevalent. With the intense media focus on COP26 and the recent focus on energy, the younger generations are ever more aware of their purchases and what they mean to the planet. We want to be in a place where there’s really clear communication to the consumer on where food has come from and how it has been grown.”

UK growing 

“We need to be realistic. We won’t be growing bananas in the UK in the next year, and we will always need to outsource certain produce, but let’s ensure our technology allows us to grow as much as we can then we export that knowledge to get pounds back into the UK. If retailers don’t have to import, we can fix our prices and they don’t have to be passed onto the consumer in such a harsh manner.

“Here in the UK we should absolutely be aiming to be as self-sufficient as possible to be a beacon for the world in terms of food production, and offer a ‘best in practice’ example that can be translated into other systems on a global scale.

“UK farming is exciting, and how we innovate now will impact how people eat in the years to come - and we want to spread that message far and wide. We have a huge challenge, but it’s a huge opportunity that we are ready to take on”.

The full City Food Lecture event is available to watch through this link.

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