• University of Exeter

Future Food: Sustainable Food Systems for the 21st Century

Find out what sustainability means for food and explore the challenges of our journey towards a more sustainable food future.

11,319 enrolled on this course

Rows of white bowls each containing different food to create a colourful pattern. Foods include raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, cinnamon, red onion sliced and sliced peppers.
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Learn how culture, sustainability, and technology is changing the food system

Food production has transformed our planet. 40% of the land’s surface is used for agriculture, soils and freshwater are under threat, and fisheries are over-exploited.

Millions of smallholders face economic uncertainty, whilst four transnationals control the global grain supply.

And, by 2050, we must feed 9 billion in the face of a changing climate.

On this course, you’ll learn about these challenges in detail and discover potential solutions.

You’ll consider the global food system as a whole, as you explore everything from individual food choice to the impact of agriculture on climate change.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Hi, I’m Dr. Dan Bebber from the Department of Biosciences, University of Exeter. And I am Natalia Lawrence, Associate Professor in psychology. And we’re the academic leads for this future food MOOC. Currently, agriculture uses about half the world’s land surface to produce food, and that’s a huge impact on global biodiversity and ecosystem services. By the year 2050, we’re going to have to feed an extra 3 billion people, and we’ll have to do that sustainably without wrecking the planet and in a changing climate. In this four-week course, my colleagues and I will guide you through some of the huge challenges we face feeding the growing population healthily and unsustainably.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds You’ll learn not only some of the great challenges we face, but the solutions being developed to address them. We are joined by Exeter University experts in psychology, nutrition, anthropology, geography, agriculture, biology, economics, and policy. This course really takes a multidisciplinary perspective on the subject of future food. This is an exciting opportunity to find out how we can make a difference from the food choices we make as individuals to the impacts of agriculture on the environment. You’ll have the chance to analyse the issues and debate possible solutions with fellow students. Here’s a flavour of some of the big questions we’ll be asking. Should we support organic farming? Can meat be produced sustainably? Should governments subsidise farming?

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds And should we produce genetically modified foods? Experts agree that the food system requires a revolution to avoid disaster in the near future. But fortunately, change is happening. So come and join us to find out more and be part of the change.

What topics will you cover?

Diets and Health

  • Changing food cultures
  • Diets for personal and planetary health
  • The drivers of eating behaviour

Impacts of Production

  • How crops have changed the planet
  • Over-fishing and fisheries
  • Livestock farming and the environment

Food Security

  • Adapting to climate change
  • Conserving our soils
  • Novel technologies

Food Governance

  • Empowering farmers and smallholders
  • Food as a commodity
  • Ecosystem services

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Investigate global patterns and trends of food consumption and production
  • Discuss what sustainability means with reference to food
  • Explain where and how to find reliable information about food
  • Debate the main issues related to food
  • Discuss how individuals choose their food and what effects this has
  • Explore how technological advances are changing the food system

Who is the course for?

The course is designed for anyone interested in food sustainability.

Who will you learn with?

I am an Associate Professor in Psychology who studies human eating behaviour and develops novel interventions to help people eat more healthily and sustainably.

Dr Dan Bebber is an ecologist with an interest in the impacts of climate change on diseases of agricultural crops. His current research focuses on diseases of tropical crops like bananas and coffee.

Dr Bethan Stagg is Digital Education Officer at The Field Studies Council. Toolbox of Multi-species Swards for sustainable livestock production. Allotment grower. @BethanStagg on Twitter.

Who developed the course?

University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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