New Canterbury postgrad school could hold the key to food sustainability

19 November 2020

A new postgraduate school focusing on food sustainability has launched in Canterbury. The University of Canterbury (UC), Lincoln University (LU), Plant & Food Research, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, and AgResearch have jointly announced the school; the result of a multilateral partnership dedicated to supporting the transition of our regional, national and international food systems – the first for postgraduate research in Aotearoa New Zealand.

  • Food Transitions 2050

    Back row: L to R: Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research Chief Executive, Dr Richard Gordon, AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Sue Bidrose, Plant and Food Research Chief Executive David Hughes Front row: L to R: Lincoln University Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce McKenzie and University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey

The theme of the school is Food Transitions 2050 [a new, official name will be gifted to the school in late 2020]. The school’s core purpose is to support the transition to more future-focused, sustainable food systems and preparation.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of this new joint postgraduate school concept, and we’re excited to see the talent and results it produces for New Zealand,” says AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Sue Bidrose. “We’re fortunate at AgResearch to have highly experienced scientists who are experts in their fields, and through this new virtual community, our scientists will be able to mentor and help develop a host of talented researchers of the future.”

“The newly formed postgraduate school will be instrumental in attracting and growing talent in the land-based sector,” says Professor Bruce McKenzie, LU Acting Vice-Chancellor. “We are effectively enhancing postgraduate research volume and quality, and encouraging more people to study and work in the land-based sector, to meet industry demands for skills and capability, increased productivity and tackle future technical changes.”

A collaboration at postgraduate and research level, the school will focus on solution-based outputs intended to complement the range of existing food innovation initiatives in New Zealand, with particular emphasis around themes including zero carbon futures, water, international transportation, plant-based diets, rural economies, artificial intelligence and technical transitions.

“Manaaki Whenua is really excited about working collaboratively with the other institutes,” says CEO, Dr Richard Gordon. “This approach allows us to make the most of our collective expertise for the benefit of transitions in how food is produced in Canterbury and beyond.”

UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey echoes that sentiment. “Our new postgraduate school highlights this partnership’s bold vision of working toward securing the future of food, and the joint contribution our researchers can make in the areas of food equity, food intelligence and food innovation.”

Foundational students are already applying into the school, attracted by the transdisciplinary and Matauranga Māori research (co-designed with mana whenua) spanning food and future landscapes, food for a carbon-zero future, food consumer transitions and food governance.

LU Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori and Pasifika, Dr Dione Payne represents the partner Māori leads on the development group for the initiative. Dr Payne sees the inclusion of Vision Mātauranga, a key component of the project and PhD proposal process, as a great step forward.

“Although we are at the beginning of our journey, it is clear there is a commitment to ensuring authentic engagement with Māori and that Mātauraka Māori is valued amongst all the partners.”

The partners are excited by the research that will take place at the school, and look forward to sharing future results with our local, national and international communities.

“By bringing together the organisations that are part of the joint postgraduate school, we are creating a new platform for integrative research that will create impact for many years to come,” says Plant & Food Research Chief Executive Officer, David Hughes.

“We are really excited to be part of collaboration involving two Universities and three Crown Research Institutes that will enhance the opportunities for postgraduate scholars to tackle ‘food transitions’ - one of the most important challenges of our time. Science that is looking hard at our future food systems is essential to protect the future wellbeing of our species and the environment that we depend on.” 

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