Global Food Systems Q&A With Marco Bertacca, CEO, Quorn Foods

The Global Boardroom, 11-13 November

Global Food Systems Q&A With Marco Bertacca, CEO, Quorn Foods

What innovations in the food ecosystem have been implemented so far in order to ensure more resilient supply chains and mitigate the impact of future shocks?

In recent years, fermentation has emerged as a prominent process within food ecosystems and one that is advancing in innovation. Once reserved for the creation of beer, yoghurts and Quorn products – we have been using fermenters to create mycoprotein, our key ingredient, since 1985 – fermentation is now a pivotal pillar in an accelerating alternative protein market. In the case of mycoprotein, our fermentation uses 90% less land, water and carbon emissions than producing some animal protein sources. This has not gone unnoticed and, according to the Good Food Institute, a total of £335M has been invested in fermentation this year alone.

How will global food systems of the future effectively balance resiliency with efficiency and sustainability?

A fundamental shift is needed in the way the world produces food to enable more sustainable, healthy eating habits. We must diversify the range of food sources that we consume, with only three crops – wheat, maize and rice – making up over 60% of the world’s current food energy intake. By turning our gaze to new food groups, such as fungus, we unlock the full potential of a protein source that has a rich nutritional profile and can benefit the well-being of both our people and planet. Additionally, the use of production methods such as fermentation can drastically reduce the strain we put on our land and water supply. To build a resilient future, we must look beyond familiarity and welcome new, rich and plentiful sources into our food systems.

What further initiatives and strategies are needed to scale the adoption of digital agricultural and supply chain solutions at pace?

According to the World Resources Institute, boosting natural resource efficiency is the “single most important need for a sustainable food future”. The use of digital agriculture to dramatically improve efficiency and overall sustainability of plant-based fermenter feedstocks will provide an important advance in fermentation efficiency as part of the solution for our food futures. In addition, Quorn’s fermentation technology has the added transformational potential of taking agricultural waste such as rice straw and using it as a feedstock to grow protein – protein from waste. Research strategies to develop this potential and assess its scalability will be critical.

In addition, the use of digital agriculture and supply chain strategies that reduce overall waste (including in home) are vital. Currently, developed economies waste ca 30% of the food produced. Put another way, this means that ca 10% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from food that was never even eaten. Utterly unsustainable.

What are you most looking forward to discussing with fellow senior leaders at the second edition of the Global Boardroom?

We are reaching a pivotal moment in the timeline of our planet. Without significant climate action from business leaders and policymakers, we risk missing the window within which we can make a difference to the future of this planet. The FT’s Global Boardroom represents an excellent platform on which we can discuss how we can collectively approach our respective responsibilities in ways that make a tangible impact on the world around us. Whether we are leaders in food, as it is in my case, or another industry, we all have the ability to make changes that can build a better tomorrow. We must not hesitate, or it will be too late.

Published November 24 2020