Research Institution

Cranfield University is a leading European postgraduate-only university. Based in the UK it focuses on research and training related to agrifood and the environment, energy, water, management, aerospace, transport, and manufacturing.

Who We Are

Cranfield University’s work on EWA-BELT will be led by The Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Informatics (CEAI) with support from the Cranfield Soil and Agrifood Institute (CSAFI). CEAI specialises in the application of information technologies for research on air quality, climate change, soil quality, crop growth and monitoring, natural capital, ecosystem goods and services. CEAI also has particular strengths in the biophysical and bio-economic modelling, value chain analysis, futures analysis, risk assessment, horizon scanning and decision science. We work closely with the Cranfield Soil and Agrifood Institute (CSAFI) which has internationally-recognised expertise in food supply chains, from soil science to postharvest quality. CSAFI undertakes fundamental research in soil biophysics, soil biology, soil chemistry, applied soil management, soil conservation. We research rhizosphere processes and root trait genetics, postharvest biology and food safety related to mycotoxins and microbiological spoilage. Together CEAI and CSAFI are truly global, reaching across Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and SE Asia, working with farmers, universities, and agri-businesses to address the challenges of environmental sustainability and food security.

Our Own Experience

Cranfield University has a great deal of expertise in research relating to agriculture and the environment. In the context of EWA-BELT, this research involves a wide range of scientific disciplines. Key research applies biophysical, social, and economic methods to value benefits and trade-offs in land use systems, arising through land use change, and under different future scenarios. This has involved methodological development of spatially and temporally dynamic biophysical and economic models such as YieldSAFE and FarmSAFE, integrating Life Cycle Assessment and both market and non-market value assessments. Other research is focussing on the development of nitrogen models in agriculture and the application of digital technologies for smallholders growing tea. Further expertise lies in the application of social science methods to investigate public and farmer responses to new technologies such as agroforestry, as well as the development of stakeholder groups to identify innovations for agriculture. In these respects, recent projects include AgroMix (EU), AgForward (EU), WessexBESS (NERC), WetlandLIFE (NERC), NEXT_AG (NERC/CONNICYT), and SidaTim (FACCEIP) where field experiments on Sida hermaphrodita and Silphium perfoliatum. Other research conducted at Cranfield University includes research for post-harvest management of food quality and security and the development of mycotoxin management strategies in using innovative post- harvest technologies, including novel preservation systems and the development of DSS for real time monitoring of the risk of mycotoxins in stored commodities by linking physical measurements to biological models, developed at Cranfield. In this respect activities include being EU Mycotoxin Cluster Manager for seven projects in Framework 5, and research projects such as MycoGlobe (FP6), Mycored (FP7) and the EU “MyToolBox” project. Cranfield University also has extensive expertise in applied soil erosion and conservation management, undertaking research and consultancy for sustainable land resource management, land degradation management, and improved soil and water engineering practices. In this respect, multi-disciplinary approaches have been used to integrate fundamental and applied land resources science together at a range of spatial and temporal scales. Recent research includes development of a soil management information system (SMIS) (AHDB) and consultancy for the UK Government to better understand options for soil protection, scaling up benefits of field scale soil protection measures to understand impacts at the landscape scale), and identify and quantifying the costs of soil degradation.

Anil Graves

I am a Senior Lecturer in Land Use Systems at Cranfield University with 20 years of experience in researching agricultural, forestry, agroforestry and wetland system in Europe and internationally. I use a mix of biophysical, economic, and social science methods to undertake interdisciplinary assessments of decisions that are made over the environment. A particular focus has been to link market and non-market values from the environment in cost benefit analysis for arable, livestock, agroforestry, forestry, and wetland systems through dynamic bio-economic modelling.

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I also use social science approaches to investigate the opportunities and challenges associated with introducing new techniques and land use systems and apply advanced techniques such as the calibrated heat pulse method and heat balance method to study water use in plants and trees in field experiments. In EWA-BELT, I will be leading WP4, where we will be looking at the costs and benefits, and opportunities and challenges of new technology options for farmers.

Paul Burgess

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I'm an Associate Professor in Crop Ecology and Management at Cranfield University.  After completing a BSc in Agriculture and an MSc in Water Management, my PhD focused on improving tea management in the Southern Tanzania.  I continued to work in Tanzania for another two years before returning to Cranfield in 1995.  Since then, my research has focused on agroforestry, crop systems, and the use of models to improve farm management and profitability.  

From 2014 to 2018, I co-ordinated an EU project called AGFORWARD that promoted agroforestry in Europe.  I am also currently leading a UK-funded project that is using digital technologies to improve smallholder tea production in Kenya.  In EWA-BELT, I will be working with Dr Anil Graves in WP4 to assess the financial and socio-economic benefits and costs of a range of new technologies identified in WP2 and WP3.

Naresh Magan

I am Head of the Applied Mycology Group. I have been carrying out research on food security/safety and ecology and control of spoilage/mycotoxigenic fungi for 35 years. I was a partner in the recently completed H2020 project “MyToolBox”. Previously I was the Cluster Co-ordinator of the Mycotoxin Cluster of projects in FP5. Current research includes (1) climate change impacts on fungal pathogens, especially toxigenic fungi pre- and post-harvest and their control using different biocides; (2) intervention strategies for post-harvest control including natural food preservation systems; (3) Biocontrol of plant pathogens/pests and mycotoxigenic fungi in both durables and perishables; (4) development of DSS systems for real time management of food chains pre- and post-harvest.

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In EWA-BELT I will contribute specifically on aspects of WP 3, focusing predominantly on (i) use of novel bag-based preservations systems for control of spoilage moulds/mycotoxins, and (ii) the potential application of real time integrated sensors for CO2, temperature and relative humidity for improving the development of post-harvest DSS management systems for stored staple commodities, especially in silos.

Jane Rickson

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I am Professor of Soil Erosion and Conservation at Cranfield University UK. I am a biosystems engineer, with over 30 years’ experience of fundamental and applied research in soil and water management, specialising in sustainable land management. I have worked internationally on the problems of soil degradation and how they can be solved. In EWA BELT (primarily WP2), I will help evaluate the performance of conservation agriculture techniques in restoring and enhancing soil condition (physical, biological and chemical properties). 

This is imperative as soil health determines soil function and the delivery of ecosystem goods and services such as food production, water storage and carbon sequestration (to mitigate climate change and extreme weather events).