Our research and associated education and engagement are in two broad themes – Food System Transformation and Healthy People, Healthy Planet. Across and among these, we are concerned with the interface between science, policy and industry; data-driven innovation; and governance/ethics.
Food System Transformation - from production to consumption. We seek new approaches to transform agri-food systems, exploring decision making at a range of scales from policy through to farm and consumer and how these decisions might be altered for better, more equitable outcomes. At policy level this includes making the true costs of food systems explicit for decision makers, including those costs external to the immediate system. It also acknowledges the importance of animal health and welfare in supporting sustainable supply chains for the future.
Healthy People, Healthy Planet - focussing on how individual behaviours and governance affect the health of all organisms on the planet. Living within our planetary boundaries implies the provision and maintenance of well-functioning ecosystem services, including well-maintained and productive soils. There is an intrinsic link between the provision of nutritious food, healthier food systems/environments, biodiversity and human health. We seek to understand the determinants of and risks to health and wellbeing at local, national and international levels, spanning infectious, non-communicable, and emerging neglected diseases associated with food and land use systems. We apply a Planetary Health/One Health lens, to develop solutions to address transmission, health securities, waste and pollution, and factors such as habitat destruction and urbanisation. At a policy level, this includes making explicit how the promotion of health and healthiness, and prevention, treatment and management of illness, depend on healthy food, healthy environments and wider planetary systems.
The Science-Policy-Industry Interface, Data-Driven Innovation and Governance and Ethics are strong cross-cutting themes in much of our work. We work together with industry, policy and ‘third sector’ partners on problem or opportunity formulation, and to co-develop theories of change and optimize interventions. We use data science, people-centric decision-support tools and technology to help transform the future of global food systems. This includes providing training and education in good practice for data analysis and management in our teaching; and working with new technologies to improve real-time data generation, communication and analysis. We work on development of data-rich decision-support tools and knowledge-sharing platforms for farmers and industry leaders, and we lead delivery of training for the Easter Bush Agritech Hub. Our governance interests span ethics of data acquisition and use, and societal governance to support sustainable, secure and equitable production and distribution of nutritious food.
Our key areas of activity include:
Food and nutritional security in both the Global South and North, with particular emphasis on:
- Sustainable protein supply, including the future role of animal-sourced foods (e.g. investigating the role of legumes in sub-Saharan Africa, the optimal use of crop residues as livestock feed, novel low carbon animal feeds, regenerative grazing systems in Latin America, and sustainable aquaculture systems)
- Environmental and health externalities of food systems (e.g. studying the co-benefits of large scale organic farming on human health in India, developing new metrics and decision support tools to manage food system externalities, including effects on climate change, improving understanding and managing risks of antimicrobial resistance, sustainable management for soil health, investigating levers to reduce high levels of red meat consumption in richer countries; crop and livestock breeding for sustainable systems)
- Food and nutritional security in fragile and conflict affected states (e.g. working on science-policy communication and knowledge exchange with dislocated Syrian academics and decision makers)
- Forecast-based action on malnutrition (e.g. using earth observation and data science to improve forecast-based action on malnutrition in pastoralist communities in East Africa)
- Planetary Health, Health and Food Systems – the interconnections between human, animal and environmental health and the impact both of and on food systems.
- Animal health and welfare – both because of their intrinsic importance and their importance for Planetary Health and food and nutritional security.