10 April 2017 15:57

Two researchers are helping to change the way academics work with the food industry to help feed a growing global population sustainably.

Dr Shane Rothwell and Dr Katerina Psarikidou have started work as Lancaster University’s first N8 Agrifood Knowledge Exchange fellows.

Dr Psarikidou is an expert in local food systems and mobility in the Department of Sociology while Dr Rothwell is a researcher in plant physiology and soil science in the Lancaster Environment Centre.

Their role is to facilitate links between academic researchers and those involved in producing and delivering our food, and they want to do things differently.

Knowledge Exchange involves making sure the results of academic research get used in the real world.

Dr Psarikidou said; “We want to engage stakeholders in producing research rather than them just being the passive recipient.”

They both have extensive experience on working on research projects with stakeholders: Dr Rothwell mainly with farmers, and Dr Psarikidou with local food producers and distributors.

They are also both members of a network of Knowledge Exchange fellows based at the eight research-intensive northern universities that make up the N8 Agrifood consortium.

They are already developing a series of projects.

Dr Rothwell is focussing on crop nutrient management, and is helping to set up an industry based soil health forum, engaging with farmer networks.

“We will be running a workshop where the participants are half academics and half farmers: together they’ll frame a group of questions to work on. Another project we are trying to get up and running is developing a knowledge exchange platform working with small holder farmers in Africa.”

Dr Psarikidou is interested in exploring innovation and food security through the eyes of different stakeholders, particularly at a grass roots level. She is collaborating with N8 partners, Sheffield and Newcastle universities, investigating how to enable people in deprived city areas to access healthy and sustainable food through an online platform that aims to reconnect producers and consumers.

She is also working with Durham University on a research and knowledge exchange project involving Incredible Edible Todmorden.

And she wants to explore the very concept of knowledge exchange: what is it, is it a good or bad thing and how can it be done differently?

“In the summer we are organising a working group at the conference of the European Society of Rural Sociology to bring together and hopefully generate debate among academics interested in such questions.”