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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T015268/1
Title: University of Exeter GCRF Global Research Translation Award: Sustainable Solutions to Food Security Challenges
Principal Investigator: Gow, Professor N
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Biosciences
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: UKRI
Starts: 01 October 2019 Ends: 31 March 2021 Value (£): 621,951
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 Aug 2019 GCRF GRTA Panel19 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Exeter's GRTA will co-design sustainable GCRF Food Security solutions that turn DAC country Food Security challenges into social and economic development opportunities. Since the launch of the GCRF, Exeter has established an interdisciplinary GCRF Food Security Portfolio that directly addresses ecosystem modification, nutrition, climate change, and destructive economies. Via strategic and equitable partnerships, we aim to deliver sustainable, challenge-led impact.

Exeter's GRTA is structured to deliver scalable solutions rapidly within the first six months, and across the lifetime of the award. Via competitive selection, we have pre-identified a portfolio of projects to be delivered through larger scale Strategic Priority and early stage Flexible Scaling Awards. Learning gained via delivery of these awards will shape a GRTA innovation and commercialisation model to be replicated across other thematic strands of Exeter's ODA portfolio. Strategic Priority Projects include:

1) Diversifying tree based grazing systems to create smallholder price premium opportunities for milk production in the Amazonian Arc of Deforestation. PI: Prof Toby Pennington.

Soils in the Amazon and many other parts of Latin America are often nutrient-poor and unsuited to long-term agricultural use. Land converted to agriculture from natural vegetation tends to remain productive for only a few years, necessitating continual advance of the agricultural frontier; leading to deforestation, and food insecurity and poverty. Agroforestry (AFS) and silvopastoral (SPS) systems incorporate trees into crop and livestock systems and can dramatically impact on the maintenance and restoration of long-term productivity in degraded and abandoned agricultural landscapes. They are well suited to use by poor rural smallholders and provide major benefits to livelihoods and food security, as well as to local economies.

Inga is a diverse genus of legume trees, found across tropical Latin America. These fast-growing trees capture atmospheric nitrogen and fertilise the soil around them. They can be grown in poor, degraded soils, out-competing weeds and invasive species. They are especially promising in Amazonian Brazil, where their use in SPS systems offers smallholders a price premium of up to 250% on milk.

Our project will solve the issue of availability of Inga seed, which cannot be stored, by planting community seed orchards as a basis for scaling up AFS and SPS systems across Mato Grosso State, Brazil. In addition it will develop 20 family-farm, Inga-based SPS systems as demonstration projects to provide the foundation to scale this approach regionally.

2) Removal and industrial conversion of Mexico's problematic seaweed bloom biomass into high quality, low cost sustainable agricultural fertiliser products. PI: Dr Mike Allen.

Mexico's Caribbean coast is under constant bombardment by invasive seaweed. Last year, millions of tonnes hit the Mexican Caribbean coastline. Currently, a record-breaking 550km long mass of rotting Sargassum biomass heads the same way. The impacts of this crisis are complex; seaweed damages and degrades coral reef and marine ecosystems. The impact on tourism ($23B annual market and responsible for 8.7% of Mexican GDP) is conservatively estimated to be a 30% decrease in affected regions. This is becoming the new normal.

This project aims to develop a novel hydrothermal processing technique that can utilise and convert this bountiful resource into a next generation agricultural fertiliser product. We aim to market test at least one fertiliser product within 18 months, delivered via a joint venture with Mexican partners with global reach. We anticipate fertiliser products will be highly competitive and deliver high quality crops. This therefore presents promising potential to strengthen Mexican and Latin American food security through reduced costs and higher incomes for farmers, and more nutritious food for consumers.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ex.ac.uk