FoodCAST is a research project commissioned and funded by the Lombardy Region, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies (MIPAF) and the Institute of Services for the Agro-food Market (ISMEA), which addresses the complex issues surrounding food with an unprecedented innovative and multidisciplinary approach. The project involves researchers from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), the University of Milan, the University Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna and the University of Perugia.
Food, water, and energy. Three ingredients that have historically formed the basis for the growth of every modern society, from small agricultural settlements to large overpopulated cities. An almost inextricable interplay of elements which has recently become the focus of international governance and policy-making discussions. The exponential growth of food and energy consumption has become a major issue that requires substantial efforts on the part of all players and in particular of scientific research.
There is much talk about the future of nutrition, a central problem both at the national and international level. In recent years, we have seen how the poorly controlled rise in food commodity prices, especially basic commodities, started to jeopardise food supplies in many countries: small countries that depend on imports, the large Asian producing countries that are still suffering the effects of the 2006-2008 food crisis, as well as African countries which, in addition to the effects of the food crisis, are also facing considerable political insecurity. Speculation heavily affects price volatility, which is already high owing to the close ties between the agricultural and energy markets and the pressure placed on the production system by the increase in consumption in rapidly growing economies, demographic growth and the rising use of biofuels.
The unavailability of adequate analysis and prediction techniques causes growing concern among the national and international communities and above all among food sector operators who are unprepared for these recent complexities. Agro-food markets are and will become increasingly complex, moving value added further and further away from the producers of raw material, thereby eroding the whole ecosystem of agricultural firms and undermining the national and international food model. For this reason, it has become indispensable to create new expertise and instruments capable of accounting for these new dynamics, and to shed light on possible effective solutions for planning and managing food resources both locally and globally. That is the mission of FoodCAST.