Sphere (Summer 2018)

“One of the greatest challenges for agriculture is to make fast and accurate decisions in response to perturbations in climate, business, or social environments.”

One of the seventeen Sustainable Development targets set by the United Nations is to end world hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. At a time when the global population has already surpassed 7 billion and is predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2050 this is viewed as an enormous challenge. This edition of Sphere highlights how the University of Plymouth is engaged in interdisciplinary research that focuses on the use of innovation and enterprise to enhance aspects of food safety and security.

Central to our quest of growing more food is to nurture our reserves of fertile soils and replenish those areas where degradation has already taken place. The FABSOIL project seeks to use waste materials as the key ingredient to develop new substrates on which crops can grow and thrive. The Plant Factory is focused on the use of LED lighting and high technology control systems to develop sustainable environments for the growth of horticultural plants in urban landscapes.

One of the greatest challenges for agriculture is to make fast and accurate decisions in response to perturbations in climate, business, or social environments.

Researchers in the Faculty of Business are developing a knowledge network and mobilisation framework to enhance resilience across the agricultural value chain. Up to 60 per cent of the total costs of the production of soft fruit and vegetables in the UK is labour and post Brexit this could increase still further. Robots with soft arm technology and precision sensors may provide a solution to harvest crops in an efficient and cost effective manner. 

Finally, nutritional interventions are being piloted as a way of using food to improve the health outcomes of women with addictions.

These stories provide just a ‘taste’ of the research ongoing at the University of Plymouth and demonstrate how what we do makes a difference in economic, environmental, social and cultural terms.

Professor Jerry Roberts
Deputy Vice-Chancellor - Research & Enterprise, University of Plymouth

Intelligent decision making from farm to fork

Improving the performance of business value chains can only be achieved based on the right decisions. Decision making in the agriculture value chain, from farm to fork, has been a particular challenge because of the uncertainty and complexity presented by fast changing climate, business and social environments. 

To meet the challenge, it is vital that decision makers are supported with the right knowledge and technologies so that decisions can be made fast and accurately.

Find out more about intelligent decision making for agricultural value chains

Helping women recover from drug addiction – can food play a part?

Abuse, exploitation, mental health problems… there many reasons why people might become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Equally, there are many and varied methods that could aid someone in their recovery journey. 

Dr Clare Pettinger has been working to support people across Plymouth at different stages of their recovery journey – and most recently with women who have suffered judgement and shame, some of whom have also battled to keep their children while they address their addiction issues.

Find out more about her work

Featured researcher: Dr Tim Daley

I want to help create a better understanding of the Earth System to help solve some of society’s most pressing problems.

Dr Tim Daley is an Associate Professor of Physical Geography in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science.

Find out more about Tim's work on climate change