One of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century is to deliver a secure food supply in the face of several powerful trends and constraints.

Population growth, climate change, unsustainable use of natural resources, the rise of commodity prices, the changing patterns of food consumption, rural to urban migration and globalisation present significant challenges in the delivery of a secure food supply. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states that a 70% increase in production (together with ensuring less waste) is required between 2011 and 2050 to ensure global food security.

Our impact in this area includes:

  • Development of a prototype irrigation scheduling system based on soil moisture sensors and a wireless sensor network
  • Development of predictive software that models the growth of food spoilage organisms
  • Development of proximal soil sensors for control of farm inputs, e.g. fertilisers, seeds, agrochemicals
  • Influence upon the development of voluntary agreements such as the Cortauld Commitment - a ‘responsibility deal’ aimed at improving resource efficiency of the grocery retail sector
  • Recommendations in forecasting, inventory management and packaging in the form of a tool kit
  • Storage treatments that extend shelf and home-life of fresh produce leading to reduced wastage and maintains quality for longer
  • Validation of packaging materials that reduce spoilage of fresh produce postharvest.

About our research

Cranfield University is advancing our understanding of agricultural systems and supply chains and developing novel technologies for the production, storage, processing and timely delivery of safe food products.

Our research encompasses a very broad range of activity stretching across the entire supply chain. Production systems are studied in the context of understanding and maintaining healthy soil resources, managing nutrient, agrochemicals, energy and water inputs and include aspects of crop physiology and breeding. Research is scaled from soil microbiology to agricultural engineering, remote sensing and precision farming. Understanding postharvest biology and reducing food spoilage and waste are key areas where rapid and significant gains in food security are being achieved.

Our facilities

We have a range of facilities across the university that are key to agrifood research, including:

• Airborne remote sensing capabilities are run from Cranfield’s airport
• Cranfield Analytical Services for state-of-the-art metabolomics profiling for important analytes in plant and food samples
• Extensive facilities are available to study the impact of soil management practices on soil erosion and interaction with agricultural machinery
• Laboratories for molecular biology, mycology, and tissue/cell culture
• Soils laboratory for analysis of the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil and plant material.

We have also developed in house soil sensors including on-line and portable systems, such as the on-line visible and near infrared kit.

Working with us

We have a flexible approach to meet the needs of our commercial clients and will develop research proposals in close consultation with industrial partners.

We deliver confidential industrial research under contract and have an excellent track record to secure government funding for pre-competitive research to meet the future needs of industry, e.g. Technology Strategy Board (TSB), LINK, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 

We are are also successful in securing European funding resources for agrifood research, e.g. European Space Agency, ICT-AGRI, EU. 

We provide our clients with extensive consultancy services and a range of opportunities to fund applied research projects through postgraduate studentships.

Our key capabilities include the following:

• Corporate social responsibility
• Crop improvement
• Crop physiology
• Food authenticity
• Food quality
• Food safety (food mycology and predictive microbiology)
• Irrigation science
• Logistics and supply chain management
• Marketing and retail management
• Pest management
• Postharvest biology and technology
• Precision agriculture
• Remote crop monitoring
• Soil and water management
• Sensing and control of farm input
• Waste management.

In addition, we run a series of clubs and forums designed to facilitate professional networking and share best practice across sectors, industries and countries. These include:

• The Agile Supply Chain Research Club, which brings together industrial partners and Cranfield faculty to share knowledge and experience of managing supply chains in practice
• The Food@Cranfield Research Network focuses on finding solutions to the complex issues facing the food sector across the whole value chain
• The Supply Chain Responsiveness in Practice (SCRiP) Forum, which brings together industrial experience and academic expertise to align customer needs with supply chains.

Clients and partners

The following are a sample of those we have worked for and collaborated with:

A - D 

Agilent Technologies, Agrexco Ltd, Agricultural Research Institute (Cyprus), Allium and Brassica Centre, Amcor, Applied Enzyme Technologies, ASDA, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece); Association of Applied Biologists, Barfoots of Botley Ltd, Bedfordshire Growers Ltd, Benaki Phytopathological Institute (Greece), BerryWorld Ltd, BIS, Branstons, British Council, Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, DEEDI (Australia), Defra, DFID, Douglas Bomford Trust; Danish Centre of Agriculture.

E - H 

Eastern University (Sri Lanka), EPSRC, EU, ESA, Flamingo UK Ltd, Flower Plus, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, FB Parrish and Son, Fresh Produce Consortium, FSA, G’s Marketing Ltd, Greens of Soham, GSK, Gwent Electronic Materials, HGCA, HITEC Luxembourg; HDC, Heinz FCF, Higher Education Commission (Pakistan)

I - L 

IGD, Imperial College, ICT-AGRI, Innovia Films, Instron, ISTOM (France), Its Fresh!, James Hutton Institute, Johnson Matthey plc, KG Fruits Ltd, Lambda Photometrics

M – P

Mack Multiples Ltd, Marks and Spencer plc, Minor Weir and Willis, Moulton Bulb Co, Munoz Mehadrin UK, National Research Foundation (South Africa), Nigerian Government, PG Rix Farms Ltd, Potato Council Ltd , Pratt’s Bananas Ltd, Produce World

Q – T 

Queensland Government, Rohm and Haas, Rothamsted Research, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Thai Government, Rustlers Produce Ltd, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, Santander, SBCSR, SCI, Scottish Crop Research Institute, Soyl Ltd; Suffolk Onion Growers, Suntory Flowers, Syngenta Seeds Ltd, Technology Strategy Board, tec5 for spectroscopy, TEI Crete (Greece), TEI Kalamata (Greece), Tesco Stores Ltd, The Nuffield Foundation, The Perry Foundation, The Royal Society, Thorlabs

U – Z 

Unilever R&D, Univeg, University of Algarve (Portugal), University of Bari (Italy), University of Huelva (Spain), University Rostock (Germany); Uladag University (Turkey); University of Kitakyushu (Japan), University of Lancaster, University of Leeds, University of Nottingham, University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka), University of Pretoria (South Africa), University of Queensland (Australia), University of  Reading, University of Sheffield, University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), Waitrose Ltd, Warwick HRI, Winchester Growers Ltd, World Bank, Worldwide Fruit, WRAP, Zwetsloots Ltd.