Injustices are prevalent in food systems, where the accumulation of vast wealth is possible for a few, yet one in ten people remain hungry. Here, for 194 countries we combine aquatic food production, distribution and consumption data with corresponding national policy documents and, drawing on theories of social justice, explore whether barriers to participation explain unequal distributions of benefits. Using Bayesian models, we find economic and political barriers are associated with lower wealth-based benefits; countries produce and consume less when wealth, formal education and voice and accountability are lacking. In contrast, social barriers are associated with lower welfare-based benefits; aquatic foods are less affordable where gender inequality is greater. Our analyses of policy documents reveal a frequent failure to address political and gender-based barriers. However, policies linked to more just food system outcomes centre principles of human rights, specify inclusive decision-making processes and identify and challenge drivers of injustice.
Crustacean waste, consisting of shells and other inedible fractions, represents an underutilized source of chitin. Here, we explore developments in the field of crustacean-waste-derived chitin and chitosan extraction and utilization, evaluating emerging food systems and biotechnological applications associated with this globally abundant waste stream. We consider how improving the efficiency and selectivity of chitin separation from wastes, redesigning its chemical structure to improve biotechnology-derived chitosan, converting it into value-added chemicals, and developing new applications for chitin (such as the fabrication of advanced nanomaterials used in fully biobased electric devices) can contribute towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, we consider how gaps in the research could be filled and future opportunities could be developed to make optimal use of this important waste stream for food systems and beyond.
Wild-caught fish provide an irreplaceable source of essential nutrients in food-insecure places. Fishers catch thousands of species, yet the diversity of aquatic foods is often categorized homogeneously as 'fish', obscuring an understanding of which species supply affordable, nutritious and abundant food. Here, we use catch, economic and nutrient data on 2,348 species to identify the most affordable and nutritious fish in 39 low- and middle-income countries. We find that a 100 g portion of fish cost between 10 and 30% of the cheapest daily diet, with small pelagic fish (herring, sardine, anchovy) being the cheapest nutritious fish in 72% of countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, where nutrient deficiencies are rising, <20% of small pelagic catch would meet recommended dietary fish intakes for all children (6 months to 4 years old) living near to water bodies. Nutrition-sensitive policies that ensure local supplies and promote consumption of wild-caught fish could help address nutrient deficiencies in vulnerable populations.
Aquatic foods are critical for food and nutrition security in Malawi, but it is unclear which populations benefit from different aquatic foods and what factors shape food access. Spatial analysis of food flows across value chains from Lake Malawi to domestic consumers shows that usipa (Engraulicypris sardella) reaches more consumers than chambo (Oreochromis karongae) across all Malawi districts, particularly rural populations. Higher number of markets, nutrient content, and overall supply coupled with lower retail prices and volumes make usipa more accessible to consumers than chambo. Spatial analysis of food flows can guide policymakers towards supporting fisheries that reach vulnerable populations and designing interventions that enhance physical and economic access to fish.
Restructuring farmer-researcher relationships and addressing complexity and uncertainty through joint exploration are at the heart of On-Farm Experimentation (OFE). OFE describes new approaches to agricultural research and innovation that are embedded in real-world farm management, and reflects new demands for decentralized and inclusive research that bridges sources of knowledge and fosters open innovation. Here we propose that OFE research could help to transform agriculture globally. We highlight the role of digitalization, which motivates and enables OFE by dramatically increasing scales and complexity when investigating agricultural challenges.