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Positioning Australia to proactively address global aspirations

With a global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, changing climates, supply chain and workforce disruptions, rising input costs, and nutrition-related public health concerns, there is widespread recognition that food systems must change if they are to provide for current and future generations.

Sustainable and equitable food systems will be vital to improving the health of humans, environments, economies, and cultures; placing them at the centre of the international sustainability agenda. The growing momentum for change has been strengthened by the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, which brought together key players across the world.

Through strong immediate action, Australia can make strides at a national level, maximising the collective social impact of the nation’s food systems while becoming more competitive in global markets.

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Voiceover speaks: We need it. Every day. To nourish. To thrive.  And to survive. [On-screen imagery: People eating. A basket of food.]


Everybody needs access to healthy food. That’s why it’s important we have a plan for now and for the future. [Farmer walking in a field. Children smiling. Crops being harvested in a field.]


We went out and spoke to people right across the country. About how we can future-proof our food systems to: Boost sustainability, boost equity, and boost health outcomes into the future. [Shot of Australia from space. Farmer in a field. Seeds being planted in a field. A plant growing in a field and its root systems.]


And Australia is bursting with great ideas that can better enable equitable access to food, reduce waste, and building a thriving circular food economy. [Shots of people in a greenhouse and plants growing in it. A person in a field. A selection of food. Discarded, rotting food. Cattle eating in a feedlot.]


Decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions from the food supply chain, making our systems more resilient and aligned with socioeconomic and environmental considerations. And increasing value and productivity. [Solar panels on a roof. Potatoes rolling down a conveyer belt. Food growing in a garden. A cow with an ear tag.]


Together, these solutions form a roadmap for the future of our food systems. Australia has the power to create a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable future, both locally and across our region. [A farmer holding a tablet in a field. A truck driving down a country road. A person walking in a field carrying a basket of food. Words appear on screen: Equity, Health, Sustainability. Cattle in a field. Australia from space.]


We all have a role to play in the future of our food systems. [People sorting food. A child standing in a field. “Reshaping Australian Food Systems” roadmap cover page appears on screen]


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Meeting Australia’s challenges head-on

Australian food systems challenges

33% of Australians experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in the past 12 months (3.3 million households) Dietary risks are responsible for 5.4% of burden of diseases - ↓ from 5.9% in 2015 Nearly 7.7 million tonnes of total food wasted and 3 million tonnes of post-consumer packaging to landfill annually 53.2 farm infrastructure index score (out of 100)
High-income country average: 59.3
(higher = more developed)
The average Australian diet emits 1.2 tonnes CO2 equivalents per year per person Total food systems emissions equate to 6.8 tonnes CO2 equivalent per year per person The average water footprint of the Australian diet is 362 litres per person per day
Water to produce food, weighted by the water scarcity at source
2.6% of workforce employed in agriculture
OECD average: 4.8%
↓ from 3.2% in 2009
49.5 Climate Risk Index Score (out of 100)
43rd most at risk out of 181 countries
Native vegetation assessed “Poor”
Soil health assessed “Poor”
75.3 supply chain infrastructure index score of (out of 100)
High-income country average: 73.1
11.1% of goods exported are food exports
OECD average: 9.1%
↑ from 10.9% in 2011

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Taking a holistic approach, this Roadmap articulates options that could inform a transition to a more sustainable, productive, and resilient future for Australia’s food, environment and people.

Feeding an estimated 60-75 million people across domestic and export markets, Australia’s food systems generally provide safe, high-quality food to consumers. However, these current systems do not feed all Australians equitably or sustainably. They also continue to grapple with a growing number of local and global challenges, threatening the ability to provide consumers with reliable access to nutritious food and participants with fair wages and livelihoods now and into the future.

This Roadmap identifies 27 opportunities and a series of R&D priorities that may enable Australian food systems to become more sustainable, productive, resilient, and equitable for participants and consumers alike. These fall across five focal areas:

  1. Enabling equitable access to healthy and sustainable diets
  2. Minimising waste and improving circularity
  3. Facilitating Australia’s transition to net zero emissions
  4. Aligning resilience with socioeconomic and environmental sustainability
  5. Increasing value and productivity.

A series of entry points for specific actions have also been captured and are outlined in the supplementary material below. Input from over 120 stakeholders across industry, government, research, and the community, has informed these findings.

This report does not present a single way forward, but rather offers a menu of options that can inform future transition pathways and dialogues.

Opportunities across Australian food systems
Enabling equitable access to healthy and sustainable diets Minimising waste and improving circularity Facilitating Australia’s transition to net zero emissions Aligning resilience with socioeconomic and environmental sustainability Increasing value and productivity
Integrate equity and sustainability principles into the Australian Dietary Guidelines Implement sustainable and recyclable packaging with improved labelling Reducing emissions through nature-based solutions Improve environmental health, biodiversity and sustainability outcomes of agricultural practices Diversify exports for long-term economic prosperity
Secure access to healthy and safe food for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities Educate and empower consumers to reduce food waste Strengthen markets for low carbon and nature-positive land use Diversify food supply chains to improve system flexibility Create additional value-add opportunities for Australia in global value chains
Support localised food systems and innovative business models Transform waste into Australian value-added products Expanding the availability of climate-neutral foods Strengthen Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capabilities and workforce Regional leadership through the sharing of technology solutions and expertise
Government and business collaboration to reshape commercial food environments   Reducing emissions through innovative technologies Bolster transparency and trust of food supply chains Promote healthy landscapes to protect current and future productive capacity
Leverage institutional procurement to prioritise healthy and sustainable diets   Integrate renewable energy sources throughout the food supply chain Promote integrated regional planning for industry development Expand Australia’s self-determined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander food industry
Educate and empower consumers to eat healthier   Creating diversified lower emission protein products and markets Advance industry-wide adoption of risk management and sustainability strategies  
    Reduce emissions from food loss and waste    

Download the report

Explore the supplementary material

Find out more

Want to learn more about Australia’s opportunities to re-shape food systems? Talk to CSIRO Futures about how we can help.

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