Food System Horizons

Food System Horizons is helping Australians think differently about how food can provide opportunities and benefits for sustainability, health, equity, and productivity.

The Challenge

The term food system refers to all the components that are required to feed people.

Australia’s food system is facing complex sustainability challenges. These challenges arise from dynamic and surprising interactions between natural resources, agriculture, food processing, distribution, nutrition and human health.

There are many opportunities to use multidisciplinary science to improve our food system, and with it our health, environment, society, and economy.

Our response and benefits

Through Food System Horizons, The University of Queensland and CSIRO are using science to help Australians understand the food system, their roles in it, and who they need to work with to develop a more sustainable, nutritious and equitable food system.

Food System Horizons seeks a future where food systems deliver food and nutritional security for all, are economically viable, socially just, and environmentally sustainable in a dynamic and inter-connected world.


The left side of the food system futures figure is a simplified representation of the present food system, comprising four components of the food system that include production, processing, distribution, and consumption. The components sit within a circle that indicates that these impact each other. The food system produces outcomes for individual health, the environment, the economy, and society. These outcomes are shown in a concentric circle around the food system components, indicating their interrelationship with the components and their impact on each other.  In the middle of the food system futures figure, there is a single pathway emerging from the present food system towards food system futures. This pathway is impacted by opportunities, drivers, threats, and uncertainties. Towards the right side of the figure, this pathway diverges to two different pathways. One pathway labelled the current pathway indicates no action is taken and continues downward to the bottom of the figure. The second pathway labelled preferred goes upwards in steps, which are labelled transformation, indicating that we can have a preferred food system future through transformation. All of the pathways occur within a cone of colour, which indicates that there are many different pathways, and thus many different food system futures.]


Food System Horizons takes a systems perspective (see figure Projecting food systems into the future), which helps us understand our present food system, interactions within it, and what we want it to look like in the future. It also helps us understand how we need to transform towards preferred food futures and avoid futures we do not want.

Food System Horizons conducts leading research to stimulate conversations about the state of Australia’s food system and opportunities to catalyse change.

We catalyse change by building capacity, creating dialogues between governments, industry and the community in Australia, and linking Australia to global conversations about our food system.

We synthesise and communicate knowledge to support dialogue about what Australians want the future food system to be, and how best to move towards a more sustainable, nutritious, and equitable food system.

Funding statement

Food System Horizons is a collaborative initiative and is funded by The University of Queensland and CSIRO. It is a boundary-spanning initiative with oversight by a Steering Committee, and is guided by a Research Advisory Group.

Visit our website to learn more about Food System Horizons.

Rohan Nelson

CSIRO / UQ Food System Horizons    
Mobile: +61 (0) 450 023 094 

Larelle McMillian

CSIRO Research Director
Sustainability Program

Professor Damian Hine

Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
The University of Queensland