It is impossible to not be concerned about food security and the environmental challenges that face the planet. However, there remains a paucity in investment and intervention for environmental protection which does not match the rhetoric associated with climate change mitigation and adaptation. The problem requires real action - not just bemoaning.
Cranfield is taking the lead in finding solutions through our research, and by preparing our students for an unpredictable and tumultuous world. We take a different approach to most which is set in the context of a creating low carbon and growing green economy. We are at the vanguard of increasing use of technology to improve crop productivity and reduce food losses and waste. Often debates about food security start by painting a picture of doom and inevitable decline. Whilst recognising the threats, we are positive, and believe that environmental problems can be alleviated through technological innovation and risk management.
For 50 years Cranfield University has been contributing to enhancing natural capital and ensuring that global food systems are more resilient for the future. Through working with industry and policymakers, here are some of our research and educational highlights:
- We were awarded the 2017 Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of research and education in large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources in the UK and worldwide.
- We are creating a £1M urban observatory at Cranfield to monitor and model environmental change in a local context using the campus as a living laboratory.
- Between 2016-2019, Cranfield secured £13M from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for two of the four UK Government Agritech Centres of Innovation. This included a new £4M Agri-informatics building to be opened in late 2019, a £3.5M Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health facility opened in 2018 by Indra Nooyi (CEO and Chairman of PepsiCo) and new plant growth and variable temperature rooms to model climate change scenarios.
- We have launched a new course in Future Food Sustainability to assist companies by creating leaders in management and technology to ‘future-proof’ global food supply chains.
- Our leadership of the UK Government’s Strategic Priorities Fund – ‘Constructing a Digital Environment’ (£10M) will enable us to investigate the role of digital data in improving our understanding of environmental change.
- We have created one of the largest and best-equipped centres in Europe dedicated to research in postharvest research in order to reduce food losses and waste in accordance with achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.
- We are hosting a conference on ‘Aviation and the Environment’ at Cranfield University to explore and showcase solutions to minimise the environmental burden of air travel and airport operations.
- We are working in Columbia and Bangladesh to improve smallholders’ rice quality and banana irrigation practices, respectively.
- Cranfield alumnus MSc Geographic Information Systems and PhD in Remote Sensing (1991) Senator Dr Ahmad Lawan has been appointed as Senate President – the 3rd highest ranking politician in Nigeria behind the President and Vice President. In addition, two of our recent alumni have been promoted to lead important roles in sustainability. Dr Siobhan Gardiner in now Global Sustainable Technology Senior Manager at Unilever and Dr Gemma Chope is now Principal Scientist at PepsiCo.
- Building Africa’s resilient agricultural future – we are involved in an international academic partnership with Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), in Morocco, and Rothamsted Research. The partnership will be supported by OCP Group, which is one of the largest exporters of phosphate fertilisers in the world. The announcement comes on the back of growing relations between the UK and Morocco to strengthen collaboration in education, research and innovation fields. Up to 20 Early Career Researchers in the agricultural sector will be supported both in Morocco and in the UK through the partnership.
This is just a snapshot of our work. With all this activity, we need your help. This year we plan to have a number of alumni activities both in the UK and overseas. You are our best advocates for the work that we do so please stay in touch and watch this space. Thank you for your continued support.
Prof Leon A. Terry – Director of Environment and Agrifood