Contribute to developing a more sustainable world

Food security and the sustainability of our food supply chains are major global challenges and are clearly highlighted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Climate change, political and social changes around the world and new diet trends are some of the changing forces we are currently experiencing that put more pressure on our food system. How can we transform our food system to make it more resilient and sustainable while at the same time ensuring the supply of safe and nutritious food for everyone?

The Future Food Sustainability MSc is the first of its kind in the UK to provide you with a balanced mix of technology, science, strategic foresight and management skills, enabling you to develop a successful career in the food sector and make a real difference in the world. Teaching is shared with our internationally-recognised School of Management and industry experts.

Developed through intensive collaboration and consultation with industry, NGOs and government agencies, our graduates are highly valued, both nationally and internationally, in the area of sustainable food production. 

Our graduates are highly sought after by employers and 92% were “not unemployed”* 15 months after finishing their studies. [Taken from the Graduate Outcomes survey for those who completed their studies between August 2017 and July 2018]. *working, studying or ‘doing something else’.


  • Start dateFull-time: October, part-time: October
  • DurationOne year full-time, two-three years part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, group project 20% (dissertation for part-time students), individual project 40%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typeFull-time / Part-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

This course is suitable for graduates from around the world, that are passionate about food production and the sustainability of our food system, and wish to pursue a career in the food sector, at a technical or strategic level. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the course, we accept candidates from a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds. Whether you studied food science or agriculture, or you are simply looking for a career change, this course has something to offer for everyone that wants to make a difference in the way our food system currently works. If you are not sure if this course is right for you, get in touch with us and together we can explore all available options.

Your career

At Cranfield we have a very high employment rate of 92%* for our School, so successful graduates from this course are expected to move swiftly into positions within food businesses, government, NGOs and research companies/institutes to engage in roles involving research, management, governance, communication and social responsibility. 

*working, studying or ‘doing something else’. [Taken from the Graduate Outcomes survey for those who completed their studies between August 2017 and July 2018].  

Specific job roles may include: technical managers, sustainability managers, technical development managers, product technologists, resilience officers, supply chain/logistics analysts, commodity analysts, regulatory affairs advisers, and policy officers.

Previous students have gone on to work with:

Kellogg’s, Carlsberg, Sustainergies, the Swedish Farmers Federation, Deloitte and Food Experts SL.

Cranfield Careers Service

Our Careers Service can help you find the job you want after leaving Cranfield. We will work with you to identify suitable opportunities and support you in the job application process for up to three years after graduation. We have been providing master's-level training for over 20 years. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. The increasing interest in sustainability and corporate and social responsibility has also enhanced the career prospects of our graduates.

Why this course?

This course does more than simply describe the fundamental challenges of the many problems of feeding a rapidly growing global population affected by finite resources, uncertainties of climate, political and social change, and a general acknowledgement that our current methods for producing food are not fit for purpose.

The Future Food Sustainability MSc integrates the diverse threads that could present pragmatic and practical answers to imminent global food problems and gives you the tools you need to be part of the solution.

  • Study a course designed to respond to urgent industry, institutional and government needs for individuals who can meet the complex, multi-factorial issues of global future food supply.
  • Develop your forward and lateral thinking, horizon scanning and strategic foresight techniques so that you can build and analyse future possible scenarios that could inform policy and decision-making globally.
  • Learn from lecturers with extensive, industry relevant experience of solving real world challenges.
  • Access the combined teaching, expertise and facilities of two Cranfield University Schools - the School of Water, Energy and Environment and the School of Management.
  • Benefit from course accreditation by the Institution of Agricultural Engineers.

This MSc is supported by our team of professional thought leaders, including Professor Leon Terry who is influential in the field of Agrifood and an integral part of this MSc.

Maria Moya Garcia

This experience has been enriching and I am sure it will help me in my future career.

Ana Maria Moya Garcia, Current student

Informed by industry

The Future Food Sustainability MSc is closely aligned with industry to ensure that you are fully prepared for your new career.

  • An industry advisory panel (with representatives from commercial and non-commercial organisations) scrutinises course content and its relevance to the needs of global employers. Helping to ensure the course maintains its real-world relevance to the marketplace and industry focus, making successful students highly sought after in the employment market.
  • Many group and individual projects are supported by external organisations giving you direct access and insight into real companies and real working challenges.

Guest lecturers from business and industry regularly contribute to the taught aspect of the course and together with field trips and off-site visits make this course relevant to the real world.

Course details

The course comprises eight compulsory assessed modules, a group project and an individual research project. The modules include lectures, practical sessions and tutorials.

Water course structure diagram

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, group project 20% (dissertation for part-time students), individual project 40%

Group project

The group project experience is highly valued by both students and prospective employers. It provides you with the opportunity to take responsibility for a consultancy-type project, working within agreed objectives, deadlines and budgets. For part-time students a dissertation usually replaces the group project.

Individual project

The individual thesis project, usually in collaboration with an external organisation, gives you the opportunity to develop your research capability, depth of understanding and ability to provide solutions to real industry and institutional challenges in the wider area of future food supply.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Principles of Sustainability

Module Leader
  • Dr Paul Burgess

    Human population growth and increased resource use per capita is placing unsustainable demands on the global ecosystem. This module explores sustainability using three approaches. The “Ecosystem Service” approach provides a framework for society to address key environmental issues such as food production, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, and water use.  The “Circular Economy” approach refers to the development of “restorative” industrial systems that are grounded on the lessons of non-linear, feedback-rich ecosystems.  The third approach is to explore the nexus between renewable energy, food, and other ecosystem services using per capita energy and food consumption. This module introduces and critiques the three approaches and examines their application to resolve real-world problems and create commercial opportunities.

    • Definitions of sustainability; the Sustainable Development Goals, moving from an “Empty World” to a “Full World”.
    • Natural capital, ecosystem processes and succession; the role of energy; feedback systems; biodiversity and system restoration.
    • Using an ecosystem services and “doughnut economics” approach: quantifying trade-offs and synergies; improving water and nutrient management, reducing greenhouse gases emissions, enhancing stability, resistance and resilience, and issues of equity.
    • Introduction to the circular economy: opportunities for businesses.
    • How design, manufacturing practice and management can contribute to a circular economy.
    • Case study: trade-offs, synergies, and opportunities to enhance well-being and ecosystem service provision in terms of energy, food, feed and wood for a case study area.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Critique terms such as “sustainability”, “ecosystem services”, “biodiversity”, “human well-being”, “circular economy”, “per capita energy use”, “natural capital” and “doughnut economics”.
  • Evaluate how natural capital and ecosystem service approaches can guide businesses and society to make decisions regarding the use of ecological resources, with a focus on biodiversity, greenhouse gases, and water use.
  • Explain how we can enhance the stability, resistance and resilience of human and natural systems.
  • Explain how the “circular economy” provides commercial opportunities.
  • Use a per capita approach to explore the synergies between food, feed, wood, and renewable energy production to guide decision making and identify opportunities in the context of a case-study.
  • Use a per capita approach to explore the synergies between food, feed, wood, and renewable energy production to guide decision making and identify opportunities in the context of a case-study.

Economic Valuation and Appraisal

Module Leader
  • Dr Anil Graves

    Environmental accounting is being used by institutions and businesses to guide decision making regarding competing projects and programmes. It involves financial appraisal, environmental valuation, and economic appraisal (or social cost-benefit analysis). This module explores the economic concepts and techniques that can be used for the valuation of non-market social and environmental services. You will also gain practical experience in extending a financial analysis to allow an economic appraisal.

    • Environmental accounting at business, sector and national levels.
    • Techniques for non-market valuation of social and environmental services: cost and income based approaches, demand estimation methods - expressed and revealed preference, choice modelling: examples of applications .
    • Principles and practice of financial and economic appraisal.
    • Case study application for an afforestation project in a spreadsheet environment.
    • Cost effectiveness analysis.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Explain the purpose and methods of environmental accounting at business, sector and national levels.
  • Explain the difference between financial and economic valuation and appraisal.
  • Valuation: Critically assess strengths and weaknesses of different environmental valuation methods and techniques.
  • Appraisal: Critically evaluate different financial and economic appraisal metrics such as benefit: cost ratio, net present value, equivalent annual value, internal rate of return, and the choice of discount rate.
  • Undertake a financial and an economic appraisal in a spreadsheet environment.

Leading Corporate Sustainability

Module Leader
  • Dr Namita Shete

    Global sustainability challenges are shaping the way business operates in the 21st century. Businesses are under increasing pressure from multiple stakeholders (for e.g. shareholders, customers, employees, society) to manage their positive and negative impacts with clear responsibility and strategic intent.  Leading firms are choosing to respond to these challenges by generating sustainable value propositions to ultimately drive competitive advantage. For many this has meant re-engaging at the level of purpose and re-addressing their role in wider society and for human well-being.

    This module outlines the major sustainability challenges and explores the capabilities organisations require to respond positively to them. It will engage you in gaining a better understanding of how corporate action can be best configured to promote responsible and sustainable business strategies. In doing so, it will demand management students (as future business managers and leaders) to reflect on the long-standing debate about whether or not ‘the business of business, is still business?

    Watch video: An introduction to the Leading Corporate Sustainability module

    Leading Corporate Sustainability

    The content is organised around the sustainability management ‘compass’ below:

    The course content is structured as follows:

    Leading Corporate Sustainability

    Part 1: Setting the context

    Context setting

    • Managing corporate sustainability
    • Social and environmental trends

    The role of business

    • The role of business
    • Challenges and opportunities for business

    Exploring possible futures

    • Playing an interactive future sustainable scenario board game

    Part 2: Developing the capabilities

    • Setting a purpose
    • Formulating and implementing strategy
    • Working with stakeholders
    • Innovating
    • Collaborating
    • Valuing
    • Leading
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  1. Identify global environmental and social trends and assess how these present both challenges and opportunities to business and analyse the capabilities businesses need to manage these.
  2. Classify the potential stakeholder groups businesses can work with to develop and implement their sustainability strategies and evaluate collaborative approaches
  3. Assess the role of personal leadership in an organization’s values, strategic direction and ability to execute its sustainability strategy
  4. Critically assess the content and reporting of businesses’ sustainability strategies
  5. Design and recommend a sustainability-oriented innovation for a selected business.

Soil Systems

Module Leader
  • Dr Jacqueline Hannam
    Food security, environmental protection depend upon effective management of soil, plant and water interactions in the environment. This module will focus on a fundamental understanding of the science of soil systems and how decisions in land management affect the soil functions related to food production.
    • Soil functions, ecosystem goods and services and concepts of soil health.
    • Plant responses to solar radiation, temperature, drought and aeration stress.
    • Soil texture, bulk density, porosity and structure.
    • Soil-water interactions.
    • Soil chemistry: Nutrients, pH, CEC, salinity and the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.
    • Soil organisms: diversity and functional importance.
    • Land capability for agricultural production, inputs and yields.
    • Innovations for agricultural production

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Describe the role of soil systems in the context of soil functions, ecosystem services and soil health.
  • Explain the principal responses of plants to the climatic environment.
  • Quantify key soil physical, chemical and biological properties.
  • Evaluate the impact of soil management and agricultural innovation in agricultural production.

Agricultural Informatics

Module Leader
  • Dr Daniel Simms

    The purpose of this module is to provide you with a set of practical applications and tools for developing, managing and analysing ‘Big Data’, to better deliver food security. A secure, reliable and sustainable food production system will increasingly rely on advanced technologies, such as real-time field sensing, model data fusion and advanced forecasting.


    It will need to operate effectively within new and changing environmental constraints, and so will need to consider and be represented within (eco)systems goods and services models, to ensure food security that is both economic and environmentally sustainable.


    The proposed course will introduce and develop core skills in data acquisition, data and information management, using numerical and statistical modelling approaches that form the basis of information driven sustainable agriculture. It will incorporate ground, aerial and space borne sensing and sensor techniques for predictive mapping within the context of modelling agricultural ecosystems goods and services.

    • Introduction to Information Rich Agricultural Systems.
    • Sensing and sensors in Agricultural Systems.
    • Spatial interactions of food production.
    • Data and Information Management.
    • Big data: what can the past tell us about the future?
    • Ecological Agriculture in the Digital Age.
    • Informatics- based decision making.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the potential of sensor systems (remote/near etc.) to measure and monitor the agri-environment.
  • Manage, manipulate and interrogate large agri-environmental datasets.
  • Explain the inter-relationship between the ecology and agriculture and the ecosystem goods and services that agriculture within its landscape provides.
  • Develop systematic and creative problem solving skills, and demonstrate the ability to interpret and obtain meaningful outcomes.
  • Communicate conclusions effectively, including assumptions and methodologies, to both specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Plant-Based Technologies

Module Leader
  • Professor Andrew Thompson

    This module provides a critical appraisal of the role of the main plant-based technologies which can be used to advance sustainable crop production and food security. This includes a consideration of the importance of crop breeding, seed technology and crop protection with particular emphasis on future needs.


    Seed industry:

    • Basic principles of genetics as applied to representative crop species.
    • Plant breeding strategies including conventional selection and marker assisted selection.
    • Genetic modification of crop plants.
    • Seed production and seed treatment technologies.


    • Discovery and design of novel agrochemicals: screening, computer aided molecular design, formulation.
    • Insecticides, fungicides and herbicides: importance in food security - past and future, modes of action, regulation.
    • Biocontrol agents – principles and case studies.
    • Phytohormones and crop enhancers: agrochemicals to control plant growth and development.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Explain the main strategies and technologies in producing new, improved varieties of crop plants.
  • Critically appraise the role of plant breeding and seed technology in delivering global food security.
  • Explain the process of developing a new agrochemical, and the main classes of agrochemicals currently and previously in use.
  • Critically appraise the main methods of biocontrol as an alternative to fungicides and insecticides.
  • Evaluate the contribution of research in developing plant-based technologies. 

Water and Sustainable Agrifood Systems

Module Leader
  • Professor Tim Hess

    Water is an essential factor of production in agrifood systems; whether for growing crops, supporting livestock or food manufacture. Globally, 70% of freshwater withdrawals are used for agriculture, but increasing demand for food means that this figure is likely to increase dramatically in the future. At the same time climate change is affecting supply and other demands on water are increasing. Mismanagement of water for food production has led to social and environmental problems in many places. Water is therefore a significant global risk to sustainable food production. This module will consider the water requirements of crop and livestock systems; the evaluation of the water related impacts and risks in producing locations; and management and technological solutions to minimise water related impacts and risks in food supply chains.

    • Introduction: Water for food; Water and risk in Agrifood systems.
    • Water requirements for Agrifood systems: Irrigation systems (Surface, overhead and localised irrigation); Calculating irrigation water requirements*; Water requirements for livestock; Water requirements for food industry.
    • Water governance and stewardship: Abstraction licencing and regulation; Water storage & reservoirs; Working together and abstractor groups; Water trading.
    • Water footprinting: Water inventory; Weighting for impact; Hotspot identification.
    • Managing water consumption: Irrigation system performance evaluation*; Irrigation scheduling; Precision irrigation.
    • Future challenges: Impacts of drought and water scarcity; Climate change, water risk and adaptation.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Evaluate the role of water in crop and livestock systems.
  • Design and evaluate management and technological solutions to minimise the water-related impacts and risks to crop and livestock production systems in food supply chains.
  • Critically appraise the role of water in future challenges to food sustainability.

Strategic Foresight

Module Leader
  • Dr Kenisha Garnett

    Strategic foresight research refers to a range of methods that can be used to identify, analyse and communicate insights about the future. Standard methods include horizon scanning, trend research, and scenario planning. Outputs include emerging issues, trends, visions, scenarios, and wild cards. The methods employed and insights produced are used by both private and public sector organisations to inform a wide range of policy, risk, strategy and innovation processes. Foresight research is a truly inter-disciplinary ‘science’, covering and combining developments in society, technology, economy, ecology, politics, legislation and values.

    Crucially, foresight research is as much about analysing the past and present, as it is about looking to the future. Once we understand how a system has developed and works today, we can explore how it may evolve and what it may look like in the future. Strategic foresight techniques consider a wide range of possible, plausible futures so that planning can be put in place to adapt to and mitigate against various conditions. It is designed to add resilience, adaptability and flexibility to organisations in an increasingly complex and fast changing world.

    This module will explore how:

  • Horizon scanning can act as a method of gathering new insights that may point us towards affirming or discrediting existing trends and developments, as well as identifying new and emerging trends and developments that are on the margins of our current thinking, but will impact on the future.
  • Other foresight methodologies (e.g. scenario planning, visioning, back-casting) can be used to help us to use the trends identified from horizon scanning to identify how the future might develop


    In exploring strategic foresight research in relation to its utility by environmental organisations, this module will combine formal lectures with interactive practical exercises that will cover:

    • An overview of the reasons why organisations engage in foresight research.
    • An overview of the aims and objectives of foresight research.
    • An overview of the different types of foresight research methods including, but not confined to horizon scanning, trend research, scenario building, visioning and back-casting.
    • An overview of where different types of foresight research methods are best applied depending on the issue to be explored, the time available for research and the output required.
    • A practical training session in horizon scanning (what is does; why it’s used and how it’s done).
    • A practical training session on different scenario building methods (what are scenarios, what can they be used for and how are they developed).
    • A group activity to stress-test the resilience of organisational policy or strategy, using windtunnelling approaches [why is it important to stress-test the organisation’s policy / long-term strategy, what approaches are used, what are the likely gains (i.e. in the future)].
    • A group activity to develop a vision [i.e. describing a preferred future (the vision)], and using back-casting to assess the implications of the vision [i.e. setting out the steps to make it happen), and evaluating enablers and barriers to achieving desired outcomes.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Explain why organisations engage in foresight research and what foresight research aims to achieve - and what it cannot do.
  • Evaluate the utility and application of different foresight research methodologies.
  • Examine the role of foresight research evidence in a broad business and environmental context.
  • Identify and apply the tools of foresight research in a broad business and environmental context.
  • Apply foresight research methods to support a convincing case for action within the organisation and use foresight research evidence to effectively plan for the long-term resilience of the organisation.


The MSc of this course is accredited by the Institution of Agricultural Engineers.

IAgrE logo

How to apply

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at this time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.