N8 AgriFood teams up with US institutions for sustainable agriculture collaborations


Researchers from the US and UK have joined forces to develop a roadmap of collaborative projects to address critical uncertainties in agriculture and steer practices towards sustainable solutions by 2030.

N8 AgriFood hosted a delegation of visiting researchers from five Midwest US universities after building relations with the institutions over the past two years.

As part of the tour to the UK the programme organised an agrifood workshop in Leeds, uniting the US researchers with N8 AgriFood counterparts, as well as representatives from Defra and UKRI.

The event, which featured lightning talks from the five visiting institutions; Michigan State University,  University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Iowa State University, was designed to identify priorities for joint research and investment for regional wealth creation, employment and economic growth, as well as share best practice for university and industry collaboration.

The research areas covered were soil and water quality; food production with a focus on diversification and environmental sustainability; production of nutrient balanced foods; ingredients and functional products; and precision agriculture.

Projects ideas to come out of the workshop include joint research around achieving improvement in water quality in the face of climate change, particularly in the US, UK, New Zealand, Denmark, Africa and Brazil, as well as integrating crop and livestock production with energy, integrating consumer demands and health choices with farming practices, modelling crop production, and setting up demonstrator farms across the US and UK to link together ideas around technology and agronomy.

N8 AgriFood has been in talks with the US institutions after meeting representatives at the annual Borlaug Dialogue, held in Iowa, where more than 1,200 people from more than 65 countries meet to address issues relating to global food security and nutrition, and build alliances in the struggle against world hunger and malnutrition in the developing countries in the Global South.

Marianna Ventouratou-Morys, International Strategy Manager for N8 AgriFood, said: “On the side of the Borlaug the teams from Iowa were very keen to work with us and with the UK. The workshop was a culmination of two years building these relationships. The University of Leeds team did an exercise of discussing known and unknown scenarios of where agriculture will be in 10 years’ time, and came up with various project ideas to facilitate where we want to be by 2030.”

N8 AgriFood’s attendance of the 2019 Borlaug Symposium marked its third consecutive year at the event. N8 AgriFood hosted a session with the UK Science and Innovation Network, highlighting three international collaborative projects building smallholder farmers’ resilience in Mexico, Kenya and Thailand.

Professor Mariana Rufino and Dr Gabriela Toledo-Ortiz from Lancaster University, along with Professor Steve Banwart from the University of Leeds, presented on behalf of N8 AgriFood. They were joined by their project partners, Professor Victor Gonzalez-Hernandez from the Collegio de Postgraduados in Mexico and Dr Joseph Hitimana of the University of Kabianga, Kenya.