European food is recognised as being safe, nutritious and of high quality. It should now also become the global standard for sustainability. Although the transition to more sustainable systems is in its infancy, it remains a big challenge to feed a fast-growing world population and steer food systems within a safe and just operating space - encompassing planetary health, economic viability and social welfare, and including human health. Many current production practices and consumption patterns still result in air, water and soil pollution, contribute to the loss of biodiversity and to climate change, challenge animal welfare and consume excessive amounts of natural resources, including water and energy, while an important part of food is wasted. At the same time, unbalanced diets contribute to obesity and other nutrition-related, non-communicable diseases. Here are some of the facts:
In addition, the COVID19 pandemic highlighted the importance of robust and resilient EU food systems within a sustainable, circular bioeconomy to respond to global shocks and disruptions in supply chains, and to mitigate socio-economic impacts of crises notably as regards food poverty.
The Farm to Fork Strategy, which is at the heart of the European Green Deal, aims to address the challenges and accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems, to ensure that the economic, social and environmental foundations of food and nutrition security are not compromised for current and future generations. It places emphasis on enabling a “just transition” for all actors of the food systems, in which also social inequalities are reduced, food poverty is addressed, and a fair income for all actors is ensured. It requires and builds on innovative solutions that can be scaled up, such as agro-ecological and organic practices, alternative sources of protein (e.g. plant-based, ocean-based, insect-based, etc.), sustainable food from the oceans and aquaculture, and personalised advice relating to sustainable healthy diets. Concerted efforts are needed to test, demonstrate and scale-up innovative systemic solutions to achieve the Farm to Fork targets and objectives in this decade.
A range of activities will support the deployment and scaling up of innovations that contribute to the objectives of the Farm-to-Fork Strategy. Proposals will test, pilot and demonstrate innovative systemic solutions (TRL 5-7) to one of the following six subtopics, corresponding to urgent and pressing food systems’ challenges:
Subtopic A.  Achieving climate neutral farms by reducing GHG emissions and by increasing farm-based carbon sequestration and storage (IA)
Subtopic B.  Achieving climate neutral food businesses by mitigating climate change, reducing energy use and increasing energy efficiency in processing, distribution, conservation and preparation of food (IA)
Subtopic C.  Reducing the dependence on hazardous pesticides; reducing the losses of nutrients from fertilisers, towards zero pollution of water, soil and air and ultimately fertiliser use Proposals have to address all challenges (those related to pesticides, and to fertilisers, and to losses of nutrients) specified under Subtopic C. ]] (IA)
Subtopic D.  Reducing the dependence on the use of antimicrobials in animal production and in aquaculture (IA)
Subtopic E.  Reducing food losses and waste at every stage of the food chain including consumption, while also avoiding unsustainable packaging (IA)
Subtopic F.  Shifting to sustainable healthy diets, sourced from land, inland water and sea, and accessible to all EU citizens, including the most deprived and vulnerable groups (IA)
The Commission considers that proposals requesting from EUR 6 million up to 12 million would allow the specific challenge to be addressed appropriately under each of these subtopics (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), or (F). Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Grants will be awarded to proposals according to the ranking list. However, in order to ensure a balanced portfolio of supported activities, at least the highest-ranked proposal per subtopic (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), or (F) will be funded provided that it attains all thresholds.
All subtopics (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), and (F):
The proposals should focus on systemic innovations that maximise synergies and minimise trade-offs to deliver co-benefits on the three dimensions of sustainability (climate/environmental, economic, social/health, including biodiversity and animal welfare), that enhance resilience of food systems to various shock and stresses, and that enable them to operate within a safe and just operating space and ensure sufficient, safe, healthy, nutritious, and affordable food for all.
Proposals should pay particular attention to:
In line with the Union’s strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, international cooperation is encouraged.
Proposals are expected to:
Socio-economic science and humanities
EEA (2019), Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2017 and Inventory report 2019. These figures do not include CO2 emissions from land use and land use change.
D. Ivanova, et al, 2017, Mapping the carbon footprint of EU regions (https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6da9/meta)
EEA/FOEN report (2020) ‘Is Europe living within the limits of our planet?’ https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/is-europe-living-within-the-planets-limits
Gallai, N., et al,. (2009), quoted in SWD(2018) 302 final/2 Commission Staff Working Document. EU Pollinators Initiative.
IPBES (2016) Summary for policy makers of the assessment report og the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on pollinators, pollination and food production. Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn, Germany.
Cassini et al., (2019) ‘Attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years caused by infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the EU and the European Economic Area in 2015: a population-level modelling analysis’, in Lancet Infect Dis. Vol.19, issue 1, pp. 55-56
WHO Europe (2018), Children Obesity Surveillance Initiative, Highlights 2015-17, Preliminary data, in OECD/EU (2018), Health at a Glance: Europe 2018: State of Health in the EU Cycle.
These solutions/approaches serve as examples only. Applicants should not assume that proposals that include these specific solutions are preferred.
See European Commission Communication “A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system”, COM(2020)381.
“Sustainable Healthy Diets are dietary patterns that promote all dimensions of individuals’ health and wellbeing; have low environmental pressure and impact; are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable; and are culturally acceptable.” (FAO & WHO. 2019. Sustainable healthy diets – Guiding principles. Rome, page 11).
From land, inland water and seas; including fisheries
Requirements for multi-actor projects can be found in Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020 for Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine, maritime and inland water research and the Bioeconomy (p.11-13).
From land, inland water and seas; including fisheries
The innovations should go well beyond the technological solutions. However, the categories specified are only examples. The applicants should include the most appropriate mix of innovations to achieve the impacts in a systemic way, rather than try to integrate all these exemplary categories.
See European Commission Communication “A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system”, COM(2020)381
See European Commission Communication “The European Green Deal”, COM(2019)640