Agri-food research network set to tackle global food challenges

  • Agri-food research network launched to tackle some of the world’s biggest food challenges
  • Network will bring together an international team of researchers to work with the agri-food sector on providing a safe, nutritious and affordable food supply for all
  • Initiative enables physicists and data scientists to intersect with supply chain and agri-food research to understand food security challenges

A new research network that enables scientists to work together with the agri-food sector in order to tackle some of the world’s biggest food challenges has been launched (Wednesday 28 June 2017).

Emmer wheat

The Science and Technology Facilities Council Food Network+ (STFC), which is co-led by the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, is bringing together an international team of researchers from multiple disciplines to address the challenge of providing a safe, sustainable, nutritious and affordable food supply for all.

Co-led by Professor Lenny Koh, Director of the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC) at the University of Sheffield, and Professor Sarah Bridle from the University of Manchester, the network will catalyse and fund collaborations between food researchers and research and facilities supported by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council.

“This STFC Agrifood Network+ is a great cross disciplinary example of how physics and data science can intersect with supply chain and agri-food research to understand food security challenges,” Professor Lenny Koh said.

“We believe this approach will reveal some ultra-interesting approaches to address resource sustainability issues in ways that have never been attempted before.”

Professor Sarah Bridle from the University of Manchester is optimistic about the potential for STFC researchers to contribute to solving food challenges. She said: “In my astronomy research I analyse images of galaxies from multiple observations of large areas of sky taken at different light wavelengths from optical through to infra-red. I’m now using the same tools to cut out observations of fields of wheat and look for signs of weed infestation.”

Professor Katherine Denby from the University of York, who is also involved in the network, added: “Food contributes over 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and will likely be the main way most people experience climate change.

“We need to produce safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way without depleting natural resources, and ensure the accessibility and resilience of food supply. The UK’s STFC can play a major role in helping to address these challenges, by bringing access and expertise in the UK’s biggest facilities as well as big data and precision instrumentation expertise from fundamental research in astro, particle and nuclear physics.”

The STFC Food Network+ runs for three years and will fund proof of concept studies, visits between researchers, small focused meetings, and annual network meetings.

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact: 

Sean Barton
Junior Public Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852