Letter from the Dean

Last changed: 04 November 2020
Vice Dean Göran Bergkvist, photo.

The EU, food strategy and more research

Harvest soon under the roof, rain outside, you can’t not enjoy it a little. It’s been a tiring season for those of us who work in the field during the summer, but my impression is that things have been going smoothly. The EU ‘Green Deal’ and the Swedish food strategy have certainly put the spotlight on the NJ Faculty’s work and, although be it without any recent statistics to support it, it seems that there is more field research going on now than has been the case during the years I can remember (cue jokes about my memory span :-) ).

The EU food strategy and SLU = a perfect match

It’s like the European Commission’s “Farm to Fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system” was written with SLU in mind. Earlier this month, I attended the thematic consultation forum on the strategy arranged by the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, where around 50 different organisations had three minutes each to present their views. Despite a lot of criticism, my impression is that the overall view is that Sweden is ready to start moving in a more sustainable direction. Most of the criticism concerned the fact that the objectives focus on the production of raw materials and not the other parts of the food system, that competitiveness and profitability weren’t sufficiently highlighted, that there is a risk of too much regulation of raw materials production, not enough focus on the protein shift (it’s there!) and overall, more stick than carrot.

When it comes to the need for research, the strategy emphasises microbiomes, marine foods, urban food systems, alternative protein sources, solutions for improved soil health and agro-ecological approaches to reduce the need for pesticides and fertilisers. These priorities are a taste of calls to come, and we need to be prepared. All prioritised areas are within our fields, and several recently launched major projects such as Mistra Food Futures, Mistra Environmental Communication and EJP Soil all align well with the priorities. Our new pro vice-chancellor for collaboration and EMA did a good job at the thematic consultation forum and rather than finding fault, she highlighted SLU’s intentions and competence and how we can contribute to realising the strategy.

Our competence is a major advantage

Production and preservation seem to be getting closer to each other. The European Commission’s biodiversity strategy is different from the farm to fork strategy, but not so much that it prevents them from co-existing. The strategy emphasises the need to protect areas with considerable values linked to biodiversity and climate, restoring areas with poorly functioning ecosystems, improved governance and tackling the challenge of turning the global trend of reduced biodiversity. I believe these thoughts can be applied to sustainable food production and that the NJ Faculty has a considerable advantage as we have the competence to integrate production and preservation perspectives.

Can I increase the amount of outdoor teaching?

As already mentioned, I spent my summer doing fieldwork (to be honest, others do most of the hard labour but I ... contribute) but am now firmly sat at my desk. Teaching, meetings, supervision and manuscript editing. Everything to be done from the same chair ... which has started to squeak (so annoying). Still, I’m in good spirits. I enjoy the chances I get to meet colleagues and students in real life. The students I meet almost exclusively outdoors. Thinking about how to do more teaching outdoors.

I wish you all a pleasant autumn.

/Göran Bergkvist, Vice dean for agricultural science

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