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Research Case Studies

“The Insectrial Revolution: Stimulating the establishment of a world-leading sustainable insect industry in the UK” 

Black Soldier Fly (BSF) farming is now widely accepted as a key solution to tackling some of the world's biggest challenges in agriculture. Food waste can be recycled into insect-based animal feed (a sustainable alternative to fishmeal), and residual biomass from BSF farming has potential as biofertilisers (sustainable alternative to chemical fertilisers). The UK is home to leading BSF specialists with expertise covering the entire value chain - across research, governmental and commercial sectors. Dr Elaine Fitches and Professor Ari Sadanandom are partners in a £10 million Innovate UK funded project to bring together the expertise within the UK Insect Biomass Conversion Working Group (IBCWG) to establish the UK as the global industry leader for highly profitable and sustainable BSF farming systems. The highly ambitious project aims to build the UK’s first commercial scale farm that is low carbon, safe and scalable to leapfrog global competition. Durham has received £490,000 from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. 

“ADAPT – Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerant Potato” 

Professor Marc Knight received £450,000 funding for a postdoctoral associate position as part of an 18 member-strong consortium of research institutes and universities across the EU. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to develop new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging growth conditions of the future. Marc’s group will focus on investigating the early signalling events that regulate the molecular and physiological changes required for crop survival under stresses such as flooding, heat and drought.  

“£4.5 million to help us futureproof crops: SUMOcode: deciphering how SUMOylation enables plants to adapt to their environment” 

Professor Ari Sadanandom and Dr Miguel de Lucas are leading research with the potential to prevent climate-change driven food shortages. BBSRC has funded a collaboration between Durham University, University of Liverpool, University of Cambridge, and University of Nottingham. The project will explore how the post-translational modification SUMOylation programs cellular processes to adapt plant growth and development to different environmental stresses including water availability, salt and pathogens. 

N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme: Durham contribution to Agritechnology 

Guaranteeing sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a growing, increasingly affluent population is a significant long-term global challenge, beyond the capabilities of any single research group or university. The breadth of the challenge requires an integrated, large-scale, multi-disciplinary research effort. This is the ambition of the N8 universities: Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York. It is underpinned by a unique seven-year track record across the partnership in delivering collaborative programmes in research, equipment sharing and industry engagement. 

The N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme directly addresses three elements of the Catalyst Fund theme of Research: Building excellent and sustainable capacity to tackle new fields of enquiry, maximising economic and social benefits from established research units, improving research efficiency through the shared use of major equipment and infrastructure, and other research outputs. 

No single university has the necessary capacity and capability to be considered as a leader in all aspects of food security; however each N8 partner has significant ‘national- and international-grade strengths’ in this field of research. The N8 AgriFood Resilience Programmewill deliver significant added value by building on the complementarities of these assets, bringing together the N8 universities to develop expertise and create a collaboration of global significance.