AgriFoodTure: Roadmap for sustainable transformation of the Danish Agri-Food system

Jørgen E Olesen, Svend Christensen, Peter Ruhdal Jensen, Ejnar Schultz, Claus Rasmussen (Editor), Kristine Howe Kjer (Editor), Torsten Nygård Kristensen (Editor), Jacob Juul Gade (Editor), Søren Haslund (Editor), Christian Bugge Henriksen (Editor), Michael Persson (Editor), Karsten Kryger (Editor), Lisbeth Henricksen (Editor)

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The green transition of the agriculture, food and land use sector is a major and highly complex task. Meeting the combined challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and land-system change requires for actors and agencies in the agri-food complex to rethink, redeploy, and reinvent instruments and mechanisms of governance at all scales, local to global to orchestrate far-reaching green transitions (or transformations) of its socio-technical and socio-ecological systems.

Denmark has a unique potential to become an important leader within the green transition of agriculture, land use and food clusters. This demands development and implementation through disruptive innovative solutions. To bridge knowledge gaps, we have identified four major tracks and additional crosscutting aspects, which together contribute with solutions that will enable reaching the national and global 2030 and 2050 missions and goals:

A: Land use and management
B: Animal-based food production
C: Plant-based food production
D: Biotechnology-based food production and alternative protein sources

We envision that each track will form a solid basis for the establishment of strong and dedicated partnerships, allowing researchers, organisations and companies with specific expertise, interests, and business models to focus on strengthening research, innovation and implementation within and across their fields.

The proposed research and innovations within land use, land management and agricultural production systems contribute significantly both to national and international missions. However, investments in research and innovation are essential to achieve the goals in order to provide the basis for substantial reductions in GHG emissions, nitrogen and phosphor loadings to the freshwater and marine ecosystems, and pesticide use, as well as changes in land use and management supporting biodiversity.

About 60% of the Danish land is used for agricultural production. This makes Denmark one of the most intensively cultivated countries in the world. Therefore, the way we use and manage this land and the remaining 40% taken up by cities, infrastructure, forestry, and nature is important for a sustainable development of nature and society and for achieving carbon neutrality, low environmental impact and good ecological status of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems while maintaining a high production and securing jobs and economic growth. The numerous measures needed involve land distribution reforms, rewetting of organic soils, changed drainage practices, afforestation and obtaining measured impacts of different land use management strategies. It also involves developing new cropping and fertilisation systems with greater focus on biodiverse arable sys-tems and perennial crops with greater productivity and resource use supporting initiatives in other tracks.

The demand for animal-based products is increasing, and Denmark is in a unique position to become an inter-national frontrunner on the green transition of animal food production. The livestock sector has traditionally been playing a key-role in the supply chain from farm to fork due to increased global demand for dairy products, meat and eggs, and the green transition of the sector is part of the solution towards a green transition of Danish agriculture and land use. Animal food production is a significant contributor to GHG emissions and nutrient, ammonia, and pesticide pollution. However, the sector is simultaneously a key player supporting biodi-versity e.g., through grazing of nature areas. Thus, with the proper technological and biological innovations of the Danish livestock sector, Denmark will be able to pave the way for a sustainable livestock production. This allows for production with low CO2 output per kg product, focus on animal health and welfare, and will create jobs and continue to be a significant contributor to Danish exports, employment and economy with an end-goal of providing tasty, healthy, and nutritious animal-based foods.

Plant-based food production is an important part of the solution towards a continued green transition of Danish agriculture and land use. Consumers are increasingly demanding more plant-based food products, Danish farmers are very interested in growing more food crops to meet this demand, the soil and climatic conditions for plant production are optimal in Denmark, and many start-ups and established food companies are already developing a wide range of plant-based food products. Substantial investments in research, innovation and implementation will make it possible to exploit the full growth potential of the plant-based food value chain and bring Denmark in a position to achieve a global market share of plant-based food between 1% and 3% coupled with the creation of between 9,000 and 27,000 new jobs.

Technological development across the food sector opens for sustainable ways to produce safe, tasty and healthy food. These technologies have the potential, along with development in production of plant and animal-based food, to ease the transition towards a more sustainable food production in Denmark and internationally. Novel microorganisms and animal cell-based alternatives to animal-based food are projected to reach 10-20% of the global protein consumption by 2035. Functional food ingredients, cultures and additives are part of this value pool. However, for this to happen it demands massive investments in research and innovation within biorefining, cellular agriculture, animal-cell based production, microbial and enzymatic upgrading of current and alternative feedstocks and of inclusion of alternative ingredients from e.g., insects and blue biomasses. While research and innovation within traditional plant and animal production have a long history, novel and alternative ways to produce food are still in their early phase and typically at low technology readiness levels. However, Denmark has a large and so far, unutilized potential to become a frontrunner in this development.

In addition to the four tracks, crosscutting aspects on governing the agri-food transition, life cycle assessment, digitalization, economic instruments, and resource efficient food processing are described. Reaching the 2030 and 2050 ambitions when it comes to goals for climate, biodiversity, and environment, while maintaining high productivity, jobs and economic growth constitutes a great and highly complex challenge. It demands a holistic view and involves consumer acceptance and involvement of industry, interest organisations and people from academia with diverse backgrounds. There is a need for disruptive thinking and collaboration between expertise that may not traditionally have worked together thus involving engagement of people from e.g., humanity and social sciences. Denmark has a strong tradition for developing innovative technologies and high-level research within agricultural sciences. However, we propose that Denmark should have the ambition to become a world leader in implementation too, i.e., getting from technical innovation to sustainable transformation of the agri-food system. For that to happen data-driven governance is a prerequisite, and success depends on cross-disciplinary collaboration involving work proposed in all tracks in this roadmap.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationAarhus, Denmark
Number of pages96
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2021

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