Global population growth, climate change, changing consumer demands and the increase in diet-related illnesses, to name but a few factors, require a rethinking of food and nutrition: food systems must be designed to be sustainable. In the production of plants and animals, it is important to maintain production bases such as soil or water and animal welfare. Processing must be gentle and energy-efficient, residual products must be recycled and waste minimised. Producers should comply with these claims, but they should also be able to live on their work. This requires new business models. Consumers are entitled to information on the origin and ingredients of foodstuffs in order to make informed decisions on which foodstuffs they buy. The power of the markets must not lead to producers no longer being able to live on their products and large parts of the world's population being underserved.
Science and research in Berlin/Brandenburg offer innovative approaches to improve existing systems.FoodBerlin's research groups cover the entire food value chain, for example:
- Production basics such as soil, climate and biodiversity
- Production methods in the fields of agriculture, animal health and horticulture
- Food processing and marketing
- Food as a factor in human and animal health
- Food security (incl. justice issues)
- Consumer behaviour, nutritional trends
Information on the current research activities of our members can be found here:
This field of research aims at contributing to shaping the conditions for species-appropriate husbandry of food-providing animals from the point of view of sustainability and animal welfare. As an important aspect, we work on the importance of nutrition for the development of young animals, which is influenced by a wide range of endogenous and exogenous factors. Increasingly, events during intrauterine and early postnatal life induce complex physiological and immunological response patterns that affect growth, metabolism and health in the short and long term.
In addition to the direct effects of specific food or feed and nutrient profiles, there is increasing evidence that intestinal microbiota is a key driver of wellbeing and health in both neonatal and old age. A systematic, integrative approach is needed to elucidate the effects of nutritional and microbial factors on young and older individuals. Pigs are a globally important domestic animal and are also increasingly regarded as important model animals for humans. In this way, the developmental interaction between sows and piglets can not only provide essential information for the target species, but can also be used as an attractive model for mother-child interactions in humans.
When breeding livestock, care must be taken to ensure that not only performance parameters are taken into account, but that animal welfare is also taken into account from the outset. Targeted breeding using genetic markers can ensure that animals are not one-sidedly specialised, e. g. in meat preparation or egg production. The aim is to produce stable and versatile breeds of animals. Optimal husbandry conditions must also contribute to animal welfare.
Intensive agricultural production systems
The consortium "Intensive agrarian production systems" concentrates on production forms with high added value per unit area and highly controlled production conditions. Adapted to the respective ecological and social conditions, production-technical systems are coupled in order to orientate the production of food and feed sustainably and to make it resilient against technical disturbances and environmental influences caused by climate change. One example is the combination of fish farming and vegetable production in closed circuits ("aquaponics").
The systems under development are primarily suitable for urban and periurbane areas or industrial areas with high synergy potential in terms of linking material cycles (water, nutrients, CO2 sinks), but also for rural areas or extreme locations such as deserts. The acquisition and optimization of material cycles by sensors, process modeling and targeted control are important. In this way, the highest production and value-added densities can be achieved on areas unsuitable for other agricultural activities. Intensive production allows products to be brought into consumption in the immediate vicinity of consumers in a way that conserves resources and reduces CO2 emissions to a minimum. High synergy effects can be achieved by combining production directions. The next step in the consortium will be to test the combination of insect breeding, fish farming and plant production, which will produce food for human consumption at each stage, as well as nutrients for the next higher trophic level. Food production takes place in standardized, stackable and intercommunicating modules that correspond to standardized ISO containers in their dimensions. This enables intensive production without additives, emissions and waste materials.
In addition to the actual production processes, part of the consortium works on the important areas of governance (interplay between private sector and political actors) and the social acceptance of modern production methods. This also includes an assessment of the evaluation, market mechanisms and acceptance of products in cooperation with practitioners and consumers.
Existing expertise: ion-sensitive sensors, aquaponic production systems, insect breeding, crop cultivation under controlled and closed conditions, chemical ecology, controlled ecological life support systems, post-harvest quality, volatile energy systems.
June 2018 - Major project for intensive production systems approved
The BMBF has approved the major project CUBES Circle for research into the production of food in closed systems to a consortium of 25 groups under the leadership of Prof. Christian Ulrichs. A modular system of containers is developed in which the production of insects, fish and plants is linked together. More Information: www.cubescircle.de
Ensuring food safety is an important task of consumer health protection. Following the "farm-to-fork" principle, intensive cooperation between agricultural sciences, veterinary medicine, food technology and human medicine is necessary, which is expressed in the "One Health Concept". The aim is to ensure that safe foodstuffs are placed on the market that do not constitute a health hazard for the consumer.
As flows of food commodities become increasingly global and complex, international cooperation in the field of food safety is an important aspect. Food chains often only close up shortly before the consumer in the respective country. Developing human capacities in science and practice, monitoring, enforcement and counselling has an increasing priority on the ground in developing and emerging countries. The focus of research in the FoodBerlin "Food Safety" work area is on the prevention and control of food-associated pathogens that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Such zoonotic pathogens are found among viruses, bacteria and parasites.
The focus is on:
- Investigations on the introduction of zoonotic microorganisms into the food chain,
- Description of the survival mechanisms of zoonotic microorganisms in the food chain
- Development of strategies to minimise zoonotic microorganisms at different stages of the food chain
- Epidemiological and molecular-epidemiological studies to determine the proliferation and transmission of zoonotic microorganisms in the environment and food chain.
Existing expertise: food hygiene, animal hygiene, environmental hygiene, food microbiology, microbial stress response, molecular epidemiology of zoonotic agents, disinfectants, antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.
Sustainable food systems in politics and society
The term "sustainable food systems" is increasingly used in science, politics and civil society. It emphasizes the systemic connections between agricultural production, ecology and social nutritional behaviour. In order to make food systems more sustainable, the production, processing, marketing and consumption of food must be considered together and the systemic interrelationships must be consistently taken into account.
Complex sustainability demands are made on agriculture and the food industry by society. These include sustainable use of natural resources, commitment to animal welfare, climate protection measures, the preservation of diverse landscapes, transparency and, last but not least, the production of healthy food. Meeting these demands while remaining competitive within the EU and in globally integrated markets is a challenge. In addition, the effects of nutrition on health and the social costs of malnutrition patterns are discussed.
Science is able to generate knowledge about the sustainability of food systems and the interaction between agricultural and food policy, and to develop control concepts based on this knowledge. Furthermore, science can help structure the debate between society and the agricultural sector. As part of FoodBerlin, we work interdisciplinary on the following topics:
- Communication and dialogue
Societal demands on sustainable food systems have to be formulated and confronted with the realities of current agricultural systems in particular. As illustrated by the example of the societal debate on livestock husbandry, an intensive dialogue between society, the agricultural profession and other actors in the sector is necessary in order to develop socially acceptable, but also economically and socially feasible future paths for the agricultural sector.
- Framework conditions for sustainable food systems
The implementation of societal sustainability requires not only operationalisation but also the development of control and financing strategies. This is a central challenge, because the international trade integration of the agri-food industry hardly makes it possible to finance sustainability measures exclusively via the market.
Existing expertise: the conflicting priorities of society - agriculture - animal welfare, EU agricultural policy, international agricultural trade, multifunctional agriculture, actors in agricultural policy, development of simulation models for the analysis of economic and rural development, discourse analysis, food governance, transformation.
FoodAfrica: Creating sustainable value chains for food security in Africa
One of the greatest global challenges at present is to provide the world's growing population with healthy food in such a way that future generations have sufficient resources to meet their own needs. It is a fact that worldwide the proportion of those who do not have sufficient food has declined significantly in recent decades. However, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people suffering from hunger dropped less than in other regions. Recently, these figures have risen again due to war and conflicts. Remarkably, the growth of the world's population is particularly pronounced where many people are already starving.
In addition to the 'energetic' supply of food, the question of a balanced and healthy diet is now more important than ever before. The figures of the World Health Organization show that, in addition to a lack of vital minerals and vitamins (hidden hunger), obesity and associated diseases are on the rise. This development is taking place against the background of a - due to soil degradation - declining production area, decreasing water reserves and frequent occurrence of droughts. In order to address these challenges, the development of value chains must take into account whether and to what extent particularly disadvantaged population groups are adequately served, rather than following a purely economic perspective.
In addition to a significant increase in the production of plant and animal foodstuffs, it is also important to improve all processes after production considerably, e. g. post-harvest treatment, processing, transport and marketing, in order to reduce losses and preserve the valuable ingredients. Regionally adapted and well-coordinated strategies must be developed in order to improve the value chains from the perspective of food security, ecological sustainability, food safety and a healthy diet. In order to ensure a needs-based supply, it is also necessary to take into account consumers' preferences with regard to their food and to improve knowledge about the composition and preparation of healthy food. The research of the FoodAfrica consortium addresses these aspects of food security with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
Existing expertise: Value Chain Management, Sustainable Agricultural Production, Post-Harvest Management, Nutritional Sciences, Governance, control of infectious diseases (Malaria, Parasites of humans and animals).