The 2021 World Food Prize winner, Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, delivered the Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development’s second annual John Innes Foundation lecture at Norwich Research Park on Thursday, May 5. The World Food Prize is often referred to as the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture, and is the most prominent global award in this sector.
Shakuntala is global lead for nutrition and public health at WorldFish, an internationally-recognised non-profit research organisation that promotes and supports the development of sustainable aquatic food systems. This includes aquaculture – farming seafood such as fish, shellfish and seaweed.
This year is the UN International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, so it’s fitting that Shakuntala’s lecture highlighted the potential for aquatic food systems to deliver environmentally-sustainable nutrition to global populations.
For a long time, the planet has relied on the wild capture of fish, which has led to the worldwide depletion of stocks. Human population numbers are increasing, especially in Africa and South East Asia, so production capacity needs to double by 2050 to feed the world. One way of doing that is by farming seafood.
Aquaculture can be practiced in freshwater with carp and tilapia and in seawater with salmon, oysters, scallops and mussels. Importantly, practices such as mussel and seaweed production have a very low environmental impact. Shifting to these more sustainable practices might offer populations with improved sources of nutritious food, while also protecting natural ecosystems.
Scientists from the Earlham Institute, at Norwich Research Park, are already working with WorldFish on innovative aquaculture projects with tilapia fish in West Africa.
During her visit to Norfolk, Shakuntala spent a few days travelling to areas of the Norfolk coast to meet local fishing community projects that have links with UEA and the Government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), based in Lowestoft.
Prof Nitya Rao, director of the Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development, said: “We are honoured to have Shakuntala as our key speaker at this event. She is world-renowned for her work driving transformations in aquatic food systems to deliver improved nutrition and secure livelihoods for millions of poor people, especially women, across Asia and Africa.”
“Aquaculture is sure to be an important pillar in future food sources so it is brilliant that we can lead the way by having Shakuntala sharing her ground-breaking work with us.”
Main Image Credit: WorldFish.