Knowledge for a sustainable world

PGCert, BEng (Hons), MSc , PhD

Dr Abayomi has a multi-disciplinary background with a first degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from the University of Herfordshire, postgraduate degree in Postharvest Technology from Cranfield University, followed recently by a postgraduate certificate in Agricultural Economics from the world renowned School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK.

She has over 15 years’ experience in postharvest operations, of which ten of these have been spent full-time within the private sector. Prior to joining NRI in 2008, her role involved the implementation of quality management systems for major produce importers/exporters such as World Flowers Ltd, Flamingo Holdings, and Gomez Ltd and she continues to work in collaboration with the public-private sector.

In support of practical, low cost solutions for quality assurance and technology adoption in the food sector, Dr Abayomi’s research programme under the UK Defra public-private HortLink fund during her time at Cranfield (a leading institution on both biosensors and postharvest technology), was key in bringing the application of biosensor technology closer to the fresh produce industry-predominantly confined to the health and military sectors. Subsequently, the principle of using a biosensor to estimate pyruvate concentration in onions (the second most important world crop after tomatoes) has resulted in a portable biosensor detector being marketed by Gwent Electronic Materials (GEM), UK (;

Louise’s recent role as the Malawi Country Coordinator for the Cassava Adding Value for Africa (C: AVA I) Gate’s Foundation funded project, supports developing and implementing quality and operations management systems, particularly at SME level (through training) for meeting end-user requirements across selected African countries ( Other achievements within this role include organising and promoting the introduction of new technology (flash dryers) from Nigeria into Malawi for processing cassava flour, and coordinating technology transfer in Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania for improved cassava processing equipment ( Ongoing activities involve linking farmers to processors in support of developing new supply chains and end-user product trials.

Louise is also co-objective leader for the postharvest component under the YIIFSWA, Yam Improvement for Food Security in West Africa, the aim of which is to reduce postharvest losses and improve processed product quality. Other projects she is involved in include the EU-funded GRATITUDE (Gains from Root and Tuber Losses; and Cassava Growth Markets ( projects, primarily aimed at reducing losses and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers respectively.

Dr Abayomi is involved in building the capacity of early carrier scientists through workshops and training programmes (e.g. ACP-EU project;, including the supervision of PhD students in the UK and overseas, researching the impact of climate extremes on postharvest safety and quality, a key area of her research interest.

She is a member of the Association of Applied Biologists (AAB), International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC), Society for Chemical Industry (SCI) and International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS).

Dr Abayomi has dual British and Nigerian citizenship, currently operates her base from Nigeria and continues to work across various countries including eastern and southern Africa.

A key interest of Dr Abayomi is that of climate change and its impacts on food quality and security. The effects of climate change on food security are already being witnessed in global markets where market prices spikes of staple commodities are becoming more frequent, unreliability in supply chains is increasing, and assets and livelihood opportunities are being lost. Reported cases of increase in its frequency and the intensity of natural disasters are cutting across the socio-economic development programmes across the globe. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) now recognizes that the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015 is endangered by climate change.

( Climate Review.pdf). Louise is particularly interested in adaptation options based on challenges and opportunities emerging from potential impacts on postharvest systems in general. This is involves identifying the key pre-postharvest parameters responsible for impacting attributes of interest and trying to predict the outcome through modelling. Two projects related to this (one of which is almost complete) are described in detail below (Evaluating the Impact of Climate extremes on Postharvest Quality of Perishables and Cassava Growth Markets: Assessing the impact of climate change on cassava flour value chains).

The Postharvest Science and Technology Research Group at NRI undertakes research on durable and perishable crops after harvest to reduce losses, enhance financial or nutritional crop-value, and assure food safety and food security. Research ranges from the fundamentals of storage and preservation of quality throughout the marketing chain, to food-science aspects of agro-processing and responses of consumers to new food products. The Group has developed an international profile in postharvest work, especially relating to grain storage management and development, tropical root crops through projects such as the CAVA Gates project on cassava processing and the Harvest Plus project promoting orange fleshed sweet potato. The following projects (Impact of climate extremes on postharvest quality- 2010-2013 and Impact of climate change on food security 2011-2016) described below are relevant in ongoing support of the objectives highlighted below.

  • support new areas of research being demanded by funding agencies in areas of global trade, food supply chains, food safety, reduction of carbon footprints and social and economic aspects;
  • strengthen partnerships and raise the quality of research outputs in order to increase our competitiveness in capturing funds from Research Councils, government, European and international organizations and from the private sector.

Evaluating the Impact of Climate extremes on Post-harvest Quality of Perishables - Seed funding from RAE

This research was driven by the desire by commercial businesses to offer the consumer a more consistent quality product and explore alternative medium and long-term strategies for managing the marketing function in order to optimise profits. Strawberries are highly important both for their contribution to agricultural income and the dietary and nutritional characteristics. Strawberries account for 75% of the total berry sales in supermarkets, with a market value of £372 million in 2006 (DEFRA, 2011). The average strawberry price per tonne in 2008 was $3851 in UK (FAO, 2010). On average the year on year increase of berry sales in UK supermarkets has been around 20% for the last 6 years.

Existence of unfavourable climate conditions can be the difference between a profitable year and a season with economic loss. The strawberry sector is also striving to develop strategies that will reduce its contribution of to climate change. The aim of research is to identify the key conditions leading to loss in strawberry fruit quality (and thus increased waste) and develop a model to predict shelf life based on changes in key variables. Strawberries are perishable products with postharvest life limited to a few days and therefore understanding the mechanism contributing towards fruit deterioration and promoting longevity is of great interest for consumers, growers and retailers. One of the most important factors affecting strawberry quality is firmness. Increased firmness of fruits is related to enhanced ability of fruits to withstand transport stress, and therefore breeders aim to produce varieties with firm berries. Strawberry firmness can be affected by many different factors including preharvest cultural practices, cultivar selection, preharvest weather conditions and postharvest manipulation. Both consumers and producers would benefit from a deeper understanding of climatic contributions to the durability of strawberries, since improved agronomic strategies and postharvest technology for extending shelf-life/maintaining quality could be adopted. Further, the development of a model for connecting preharvest weather conditions and postharvest quality could contribute to waste minimization through improved agronomic practices and marketing strategies. Results have demonstrated:

  • Evidence of both a short and long term effect of increased pre harvest temperature on fruits resulting in reduced firmness of strawberries.
  • Long term effects on fruits quality. Fruits became less red and had lower anthocyanins (health compounds) and sugar levels and more acids.
  • Future work could include research on the physiological mechanisms involved in strawberry softening such as enzymatic action and water-plant relations.

Cassava growth markets: Assessing the impact of climate change on cassava flour value chains - EU Funded

Cassava is the third in importance amongst carbohydrate foods grown in the tropics, after rice and maize. It is a major staple food especially in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is also known as one of the crops which mostly drought-tolerant and capable of growing on marginal soils. The key aim is to establish the likely climatic changes that will occur in cassava growing communities in Nigeria and identify adaptation options based on challenges and opportunities emerging from potential impacts on cassava post harvest value chain systems in general, as well as for specific processed commodities.

With respect to food safety and security, the research aims to assess the effects of the climatic variation on the presence of pathogen types and concentration in two common varieties of processed stored cassava foods; evaluate the potential of the identified pathogens to produce toxins in collected samples under different storage conditions; and evaluate the impact of climatic conditions on the formation of cyanogenesis in cassava roots. Nigeria and other West African countries are likely to have agricultural losses of up to 4 % of GDP due to climate change. According to the IPCC, parts of Nigeria that experienced soil erosion and operate rain-fed agriculture could have declines in agricultural yield of up to 50% in the period 2000 – 2020 due to increasing impact of climate change. Research is still ongoing.

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