A new, fully-funded PhD project at Harper Adams University is set to develop new ways of ensuring buyers have access to fresh produce of the highest quality.
The UK produced 95,000 tonnes of turnips and swedes in 2020 – worth £34 million.
Making sure that these vegetables are not rejected by retailers and consumers is, therefore, hugely valuable. Senior Lecturer in Plant Biology, Dr Laura Vickers, explains just how important the research project is – and how it will help boost the amount of food on the UK’s shelves.
If we are to meet the challenges of feeding a growing population then one of our greatest challenges is reducing food wastage from field to fork.
Fresh produce are crops that are usually harvested and delivered to supermarkets fresh from the field with minimal processing. They usually have the shortest shelf life of all food products - and unfortunately are often judged based on appearance, with produce that is nutrient rich being rejected based on its looks.
For instance, discoloured produce is often rejected, and discolouring may be the result of bruising. That’s where our new PhD project comes in!
The exciting element about this collaborative project is that we have a fully-funded studentship that will have a real-world impact.
The successful candidate will identify how to prevent the Swede crop from discolouring - and so increase the amount of food making it onto shelves.
The project involves looking at all the processes from growing the crop to harvest, to see if there are 'quick wins' growers can put in place, as well as looking at brand new varieties with an industry link to Elsoms Seeds Ltd.
This project is a fantastic opportunity for a student to work at two leading universities, Harper Adams with its global reputation in food production and post-harvest work, and the University of Warwick, with a lab that has an excellent reputation for phenotyping and genotyping.
In addition, supervision of the successful applicant will be overseen by an exceptional team of professors, lecturers and researchers across three organisations.
The PhD candidate will spend time learning skills for the laboratory and the field, as well as completing a placement with industry sponsor Elsoms Seeds Ltd, where they will learn about their business and the wider sector, attend conferences, meet many farmers - and also get a chance to present their research.
This exposure will give the successful applicant many industry contacts and could be the perfect exposure to securing employment after the project.
The project will train the student up in many different methodologies and create a well-rounded, commercially-aware researcher, that has the skill to cross disciplines, as well as engage in dialogue a variety of audiences.
This is a fantastic opportunity and we are very excited that we can offer this fully funded scholarship to a UK student.