A taste of science

8 June 2018 15:15
For the first time the 90,000 visitors to the BBC Good Food Show will discover the scientific research behind our food and drink, thanks to research scientists.
Shane Rothwell, Katherine Howell and Marta Onate Gutierrez with some of the activities

For the first time the 90,000 visitors to the BBC Good Food Show will discover the scientific research behind our food and drink, thanks to research scientists.

In the first such science exhibit to ever appear at the BBC Good Food Show, the ‘Nature of Food’ stand at the show in Birmingham (14 – 17 June 2018) has been designed by agrifood scientists to bring their research to the expected 90,000 ticket holders. Through interactive activities and games, visitors will explore how research has shaped our most popular foods and the vital role it will play in the future.

By 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion. To feed all of these mouths, it is estimated that agricultural production will need to increase by up to 70 %, whilst maintaining or improving the foods’ nutritional value. Scientific research into food production, supply chains and consumption has therefore never been so crucial.

Lancaster University Researchers Dr Marta Onate Gutierrez, Katherine Howell, Dr Shane Rothwell and Dr Sam Taylor, working with colleagues from the British Ecological Society and the N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme, have developed activities to showcase their discoveries, demonstrating how science can contribute to sustainable, resilient and healthy food supplies. These will be hosted in an unmissable marquee designed by Lancaster’s Dr Emma Sayer.

Activities include:

  • Roots - the hidden half: Roots make up half of a plant’s mass, however, do people know what they actually look like? In a fun drawing game, participants can guess what the roots look like when shown just the top half of a plant (e.g. carrot, wheat). They will also be able to use microscopes to see how roots look under different environmental conditions producers encounter, including the use of fertilizers or droughts.
  • The evolution of wheat: The wheat we eat today is the product of thousands of years of selective breeding to create the perfect bowl of pasta and loaf of bread. But what next? Explore the creation of our staple foods and see how wild relatives are the key to their future. Gluten-free diets are gaining popularity, new pests are emerging, climate change is challenging the production of our crops – will our wheat be able to meet these challenges?
  • Where do you come from, where do you grow? Foods that are part of our everyday diets in the UK were first domesticated in diverse parts of the world. They have travelled here through many means over many centuries, and have become commonplace in our shops and markets, yet do we still know where they began? Are the places we most associate with the constituents of particular cuisines actually the places that currently produce the most of these ingredients? What are the implications for sustainability? With the aid of a magnetic global map, participants investigate the answers to these questions and see where their favourite meals really come from!
  • Are you a supertaster? Only 25% of the population are supertasters, carrying a genetic trait that gives them a more intense sense of taste. They perceive foods as sweeter, spicier, more bitter, etc. Visitors can ‘take the test’ and find out if they are a supertaster. Bitter foods (e.g. green vegetables, dark chocolate and turmeric), for example, are high in antioxidants and scientists are finding new ways to make these more palatable to promote healthier eating.
  • Wheel of farming misfortunes: After creating their ideal landscape with livestock, crop and fruit farming, visitors will spin the ‘wheel of misfortune’ and see how a range of challenges (e.g. flooding, pests and drought) can affect their food production. They will learn from our experts about the complexities of balancing food production and environmental protection. 

Follow the exhibition and interact with researchers live at #NatureOfFood.

‘Nature of Food’ is primarily funded by the British Ecological Society, a non-profit membership organisation dedicated to the promotion of ecological science.

Back to News