The Plant Science Laboratory and the Applied Mycology Group provide expertise on food systems and invent innovative technologies to reduce food losses and waste, from farm to fork. We operate in pre and postharvest stages of the food supply chain considering production, packaging, manufacturing and retail. We can help your business develop new capabilities, explore funding opportunities to bring ideas to reality and establish corporate partnerships with leading academic in the sector.
Who we are
We are a multidisciplinary group of scientists with broad expertise in postharvest biology and management, ecophysiology of key fungal species, molecular ecology and detection of secondary metabolites (mycotoxins) occurring on foods. We harness this knowledge to work towards creating safe and sustainable food production chains and reduction of food waste.
Experts in identifying and tackling food industry challenges
We apply cutting-edge solutions to key challenges in the food industry. Our researchers are in constant contact with stakeholders in the supply chain, working on innovative approaches to ensure a resilient and sustainable supply chain.
We develop our research, consultancy and training activities in world-class facilities and service resources. The Plant Science Laboratory is able to replicate real world conditions from farm to fork. Our facilities include:
- Unique glasshouse with moveable phenotyping gantry equipped with sophisticated real-time scanning photonics to assess plant health, crop architecture, and pre-symptomatic detection of disease and stress.
- Postharvest storage facilities for fresh produce, including controlled atmosphere scenarios with cutting-edge technology to monitor respiration rate and ethylene production,
- Laboratory equipped to evaluate physiological and nutritional quality of fresh produce from organoleptic and visual traits to the identification and quantification of health-promoting compounds,
- Ecophysiology facilities for the identification of bacteria and fungi,
- Analytical laboratories to evaluate metabolomics profiles including mycotoxin production and assess relative food safety risk levels in the context of international regulations,
- Production and formulation facilities for biocontrol agents for use in integrated crop protection management systems,
- Molecular biology laboratory with cutting-edge genome sequencing technology to carry out in depth studies of the complex genetic mechanisms underlying germination, growth and mycotoxin production of predominant toxigenic fungi,
- Access to modified atmosphere storage facilities, state of the art plant growth rooms with climate change exposure systems, and remote sensing platforms.
How to engage
The Food loss and waste Business Facing Unit has a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach towards research and development. We work with international companies as well as leading UK businesses. Our aim is to transfer knowledge to create safe and sustainable food production chains and reduce of food loss and waste. If your business would like to develop an efficient, low carbon, sustainable food supply chain, we can help improving your system through a long term partnership with us where we will study in depth the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation to enhance your capabilities and skills.
Your company can also work directly with our academic staff. Consultancy projects can be any length or size and are not restricted by specific timings during the year. We tend to be very flexible in our approach and will do our utmost to meet your time and budget constraints.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)
KTPs help businesses to partner with an academic organisation, research organisation or a Catapult, to employ a graduate with the skills and knowledge that can help the business to innovate and grow. The project can focus on any type of innovation in any sector but it must aim to deliver results that your business would not otherwise be able to deliver. The associate is employed by the academic partner but works in the business and brings new skills and thinking to deliver a specific innovation project. We have a dedicated KTP team for support during application and post-award, and have a particularly high level of success in these schemes.
The MSc (Master of Science) is typically a one-year taught postgraduate degree, involving taught modules, group research projects and an individual research thesis. Your company can sponsor a project that can be tailored to your business needs, provided that it still has a demonstrable research component. Costs and project scope are discussed on a project by project basis, and are influenced by requirements for access to specialist laboratory equipment and technical training.
Individual Research Project
This is a full-time, four-month thesis project, optionally with the graduate based some or all of the time at the company location. A student research project could be an excellent starting point for collaboration with you that would enable us to determine the best route forward for a more in-depth study.
MSc Group Research Project
Group projects tend to involve four to six students over a three-month period (i.e., 12-18 man-months). They can be inter-disciplinary in nature, bringing together students with diverse skillsets from across the university to address a problem from all perspectives.
MSc by Research (MRes)
This is a research MSc programme consisting of a single or multiple projects set over one year. The project typically starts with a literature review, followed by eight or nine months of dedicated research. Companies can sponsor an MRes project again tailoring the research towards solving a business need. MRes projects may form the first year of a PhD if both candidate and company are keen to extend the project.
Companies may also choose to fully-fund a PhD, typically over three years. This involves a challenge or issue that needs solving and that has a substantive innovative component. This sponsorship can be realised through a direct partnership with our academics or through Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP). Cranfield University is part of the FoodBioSystems DTP where companies may co-fund PhDs (approximately 50% of cost), in which case they have a major role in determining the research programme.
Horticultural Food and Loss Network
This BBSRC funded Horticultural Food and Loss network is co-run by Cranfield and Reading Universities. Its primary aim is to act as the leading collective voice for the UK horticultural and postharvest community, attracting new researchers into the field, and stimulating new research and business collaborations. Small pump-priming grants (£5-20k per application) are available for projects to develop ideas and research plans or conduct feasibility studies for acquisition of preliminary data that would enable a project to be developed beyond the pump-priming phase.