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Warwick pairs with Waitrose to promote food security

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Warwick University has partnered with Waitrose to create a doctoral training collaboration focused on developing food security.

The project will provide PhD students with academic development and industry training in agriculture and sustainable crop development.

The collaboration will provide students with business skills and employment opportunities in the fresh produce industry, as well as giving them the chance to contribute towards the future of global food security.

This is a particularly important industry sector considering the world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The UK Agri-Tech strategy calls for the UK to increase its food production in a sustainable fashion.

The students will work on projects in sustainable crop production, sustainable soil and water, biodiversity and ecosystem services in agriculture. They will use several top end facilities provided by the University.

This initiative has arisen thanks to the £18.9m Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTP) award given by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

CTPs aim to provide PhD students with high quality research training experience using an academic and partner organisation collaboration. The collaboration includes other institutions: Lancaster University, the University of Reading, and Rothamsted Research.

Dr Rosemary Collier, the Director of Warwick’s Crop Centre in the School of Life Science, commented: “This exciting new programme is an excellent opportunity for us all to work collaboratively with the Waitrose Agronomy Group and Waitrose suppliers in developing a cohort of graduate students who will make a difference to the fresh produce supply chain.”

Alan Wilson, the Technical Manager for Agronomy at Waitrose, said: “Our evidence shows that there is a clear need to provide new thinking to address the challenges involved in delivering a more secure and sustainable food system.”

Students will begin the project in October 2017 and their research will be exhibited each February at the Waitrose Science Days hosted at the University of Warwick.

Hattie Rowan

Scitech analysis: Food Security

In our lives as students it can be all too easy to fail to recognise the importance of the fundamentals of life: food and water. Although we have more than enough for us to consume – as highlighted by the university’s record on food wastage – It’s estimated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that almost 11% of people across the world are undernourished, with around 98% of those in the category living in developing countries. The stark division between developed and developing countries on the bare essentials of life is staggering.

That’s just one reason why the research and training funding announced for the Warwick Crop Centre is all the more important. At a time when the world is coming to terms with an ever-changing climate, trying to marry the development required to feed the hungry of the world with efforts to offset global warming is a difficult task, and one that can only be improved by learning more about sustainable practices through research.

The PhD students funded by the programme will look into not only food security but also focus upon biodiversity and water sustainability. The latter of these areas of study also has huge implications: the UN predicts that two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed countries within the next ten years due to excessive depletion of water sources. Research taking place at Warwick and other partner institutions could have a huge impact upon the future of our food and water usage – I for one hope that their studies come up with positive results.

John Butler

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