Knowledge for a sustainable world

Research Group:
Food Systems

The Food Systems Research Group addresses challenges and opportunities relating to the spectrum of activities from food production to consumption, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Research currently undertaken by the group encompasses work on durable and perishable crops after harvest to reduce losses, enhancement of financial and/or nutritional crop value, improved storage and preservation, improving food processing technologies, ensuring food safety and quality management and, addressing food loss and waste - with the ultimate aim of improving the livelihoods and nutritional status of vulnerable populations.

The group has recently been strengthened through new members of staff recruited under the institute’s Food and Nutrition Security Initiative, FaNSI (https://www.nri.org/development-programmes/fansi/overview) enhancing our expertise in key areas such as food environments and public health nutrition and we are currently building a state of the art Food Innovation laboratory to be open later in 2020.

In addition to a programme of research overseas, the group  has collaborated with NIAB EMR, a Kent based research institute with an international reputation for horticultural research, to establish the Produce Quality Centre (PQC) as a centre of excellence for UK based research on fresh produce quality. Together the two institutes provide the widest range of expertise and the best facilities for postharvest research in the UK. The PQC benefits from the expertise and resources of both institutes, bringing together experts in the production, storage, marketing and supply of temperate, tropical and sub-tropical crops.

Some of our achievements to date include:

  • Development of a reliable technique for predicting risk to farmers of attack by Prostephanus truncatus, a devastating stored-grain pest in Africa, and successful application of the technique in Ghana, thus allowing farmers to safeguard their valuable harvest

  • Development of an innovative method for small-holders in sub-Saharan Africa to protect their limited grain stocks against insect damage by using diatomaceous earth (DE), and proven feasibility of exploiting local DE deposits to replace synthetic organophosphate-based insecticides

  • Understanding how to effectively remove cyanide from cassava during processing

  • Developing more efficient, cost effect and locally manufacture equipment for drying cassava flour suitable for small-scale cassava processors

  • Developing improved equipment that is locally manufactured for removing water from grated fermented cassava

  • Developing curing and bagging methods for increasing the shelf-life of fresh cassava roots

  • Development of simple methods to measure consumer acceptance of novel food products, that are suitable for use in rural and urban populations who have a low level of formal education in low to middle income countries

  • Development of approaches to measure food choice, particularly migrants from rural and urban centres in Africa

  • Measuring the safety and economic importance of street vended foods in Africa and Asia

  • Evaluating the contribution of small-scale chicken-keeping to the diets, health and nutritional status of young children in rural communities in Africa

  • Improve nutrition diversity through access to biofortified foods, more acceptable foods, new products

The current research strategy for the group includes work a variety of topical areas for example:

  • Effect of recycled content in plastic films

  • Further development of sustainable handling of fresh produce

  • Preparation of two REF impact case studies based on our work on cassava and on sweet potato

  • Development of a conceptual framework on the effect of external credit rating on food SMEs access to finance and economic growth – a Bangladesh case study

  • Further development of food systems concepts and frameworks

  • Impact of food-borne illness from home grown school feeding programmes

  • Given the current COVID-19 situation the research group is currently working on a number of areas including the impact of COVID-19 on food systems and nutrition and the responding to the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s agriculture

Contact

Dr Andy Frost Dr Andy Frost Head, Food and Markets Department +44 (0)1634 88 3808 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.