Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security


We are an interdisciplinary hub of research, teaching and consulting expertise, to support decision making to transform agri-food systems and food security.

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. Over a third of the global population is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition – be that hunger, obesity or micronutrient deficiency. Agriculture, core to achieving food security, is both a key driver of environmental degradation, and extremely vulnerable to environmental change. 

The world population is expected to reach 11 billion by the end of this century. Demands on natural systems and resources are also at an all-time high, and so it is essential that we find new ways to feed the growing population without destroying the planet.

Achieving sustainable, healthy diets underpins many of the Sustainable Development Goals – especially those concerned with hunger, poverty, health, gender equality, land, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security brings people together from across the University of Edinburgh and our partner institutions to work on this complex global challenge – underpinned by world-leading interdisciplinary research, teaching and engagement.

Our Vision

Socially, environmentally and economically sustainable global agri-food systems.

Our Mission

Agenda-setting, impactful, inter-disciplinary research; inspiring lifelong education and training; promoting partnership and engagement.

Our research themes

Our collective strength is in applying systems thinking and data skills to investigate challenges and opportunities in agriculture, food and environmental security. We are uniquely placed, with skillsets and partnerships that arch across agri-food supply chains and beyond, in both the Global North and South. Our research, which underpins our teaching, is in three interconnected themes:


Research themes diagram


1. Agri-Food Systems Innovation

Transformation of global agri-food systems is central to achieving food and environmental security. We investigate and promote innovation in complex food-supply systems – including appropriate new technologies - to deliver sustainable, healthy diets, to drive the transformation towards resilient, fair and sustainable food systems, and to support growth in the wider bio-economy.  Our interests include: novel farming systems; understanding the role of livestock-derived foods in sustainable, healthy diets; optimizing use of animal genetic resources and feed resources to develop sustainable livestock systems; soil, crop and livestock management for sustainable intensification; precision agriculture; and agri-business models that support fair value distribution along supply chains.  

Contact: Prof Alan Duncan


2. Food, People, Planet

Human health and wellbeing are inextricably linked with animal, crop, soil and environmental health. Our agri-food systems are putting an increasing burden on the environment and affecting ‘planetary health’. We investigate agri-food system innovations most likely to improve human health and wellbeing and wider planetary health.  We investigate the wider societal and environmental impact of agri-food system interventions, and the policy and governance issues around them. Our interests include novel approaches to predict and control crop and livestock diseases and to reduce antimicrobial resistance; developing efficient, environmentally sensitive, sustainable, agri-food systems – systems that reduce waste, are resilient to climate and environmental change, and reduce environmental impact; and regulation of new technologies.  

Contact: Dr Jonathan Hillier

3. Data-Driven Innovation

Advances in data science, communication-, sensor- and earth observation-technologies are driving a ‘fourth revolution’ in agriculture. Data-Driven Innovation is a cross-cutting theme, supporting our work in the Agri-Food Systems Innovation and Food, People, Planet themes. Our interests include data-driven innovation in agri-food system sustainability, including decision support tools, machine learning and artificial intelligence; precision farming; promoting food-supply-chain integrity and authenticity; and modelling, testing and evaluating the impact of agri-food system interventions.  

Contact: Dr Lisa Boden

Our research in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science - with partners Scotland’s Rural College - ranked top in the UK for research power in the last Research Excellence Framework (REF2014).


Our key expertise

Global Academy Staff have expertise spanning:

  • Human nutrition and public health
  • Agricultural systems, ecology and soil science
  • Land use, environmental and agri-food systems
  • Climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation
  • Agricultural and natural resource economics
  • International law and governance of natural resources
  • International development
  • Data science, mathematical modelling and decision support
  • Innovation, regulation, policy and governance
  • Behaviour change and social networks
  • Animal science and livestock systems
  • Veterinary public health, population medicine and animal health policy.

For more details see: Our staff

Download our guide