Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and UK Government Minister Penny Mordaunt visited Edinburgh University’s Easter Bush campus to showcase how communities worldwide are being helped by innovative agricultural research.

The co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK International Development Secretary discussed how their organisations invest in projects based in Edinburgh which are improving the health and productivity of people and farm animals at home and abroad.

“For over a billion people living in the world’s poorest countries, agriculture and livestock are a lifeline out of poverty,” said Gates. “The science and research being led by the great minds here in Edinburgh are making huge strides in improving the health and productivity of livestock.”

They unveiled a plaque to formally launch the University’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, a £35 million research and teaching initiative focused on safeguarding the future of the world’s food supplies.

In her speech, the Secretary of State unveiled a package of investments in research to improve the resilience of farmers’ crops and livestock to natural disasters and protect them from diseases. This included £4m for the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, which is based in the University’s Roslin Institute at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary studies.

“This transformative UK aid research will not only stop diseases from destroying the livelihoods of African farmers, it will also help control livestock diseases on British farms,” said Mordaunt.

Bill Gates announced $40m funding for the Edinburgh-based charity the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), which works to improve the accessibility and affordability of livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics in developing countries.

The University has launched the Global Academy for Agriculture and Food Security as a hub for teaching and research into issues that affect global food and environmental security, sustainable rural development, and the wellbeing of animals and people.

“Feeding the world’s growing population well while protecting the natural systems on which we all depend is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity,” said university principal Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea. “In addition to world-class research, our Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security will equip future leaders with the knowledge and expertise to tackle this challenge and safeguard the future of the world’s food supplies for generations to come.

Also taking part in the event, experts from the Supporting Evidence Based Interventions project highlighted how developments in data-sharing and accessibility can help inform better livestock decision making.