Past N8 Agrifood projects

Details of previous N8 Agrifood funded projects are listed below.



Back to: Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Food Systems

  • Optimising use of antimicrobials in livestock systems reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance

    The possible link between the use of antimicrobials in farmed animals and the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in humans presents a significant risk to public health.

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    Of potential concern is when antimicrobials are used in livestock systems to prevent infections, often through in-feed or water routes, and the use of these same antimicrobials deemed critically important for human medicine. Currently there appears to be significant variation in the use of these antimicrobials by UK dairy farmers, but the reasons for this are not well understood. Working in partnership with the Tesco Dairy Centre, this project aims to explore and understand why these variations occur at the individual farm level. The data generated from this pilot project is expected to provide vital information that could help in identifying approaches towards optimising antimicrobials use in livestock systems and hence reducing the risk of contributing to AMR.

    To find out more about this project, please contact Sophia Latham.

  • Using computer-based simulations to model, simulate and optimise Agri-Food Supply Chain resilience

    The development of the agri-food sector in both the UK and EU is a government priority especially in building more resilient and sustainable agri-food supply chains (AFSC).

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    AFSCs are subject to a variety of local and global regulations determined by national and international bodies such as the Common Agricultural Policy or the World Trade Organisation. Understanding and improving AFSCs in the context of resilience requires detailed understanding of upstream and downstream relationships with suppliers and customers.

    UK/EU AFSC decision-makers, especially farmers, face market challenges, in adapting to externalities including technological innovation, new nutritional market demands, the dynamics of the economic, political markets and concerns over food security and climate change. Furthermore, due to BREXIT, a new challenge and potential source of uncertainty to the UK/EU AFCS related commodities and trading.

    This project will use simulation approaches to map the main AFSC processes both in the UK and internationally in response to these externalities. The project will provide evidence-based answers to the following:

    • The status of current AFSC in the context of local/international policies requirements
    • The nature of AFSC stakeholder responses related to BREXIT challenges
    • How current developments in investment, productivity growth, R&D are addressing future sustainability and resilience in AFSC
    • The factors, both opportunities and constraints, that may influence AFSC performance pre/post BREXIT.

    To find out more about this project, please contact Jorge Hernandez.

  • Developing caecal microbiome transplantation to improve broiler chicken gut health and reduce pathogen carriage

    Chickens are the most frequently reared livestock species in the world, produced in systems ranging from intensive high volume production to backyard village production.

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    In the UK we rear around 900 million broiler (meat) chickens each year, the vast majority in intensive indoor systems. Whilst this is an efficient and successful system there are problems with animal welfare compounded by both musculoskeletal and poor gut health in modern broiler breeds and to public health through carriage of foodborne bacterial pathogens such as Campylobacter jejuni that may be found on 70% of retail chicken carcasses in the UK.

    We have developed methods to transfer a mature intestinal microbiome to newly hatched broiler chicks. We believe that chicks produced commercially do not acquire a ‘normal’ avian microbiome as there is no contact between hen and chick and are more likely to acquire a humanised or environmental microbiota in early life. We know that in birds reared in both experimental and commercial conditions the microbiome begins to stabilise after 3 weeks of age and this is more representative of a true chicken microbiome. We believe that introducing a more mature avian microbiome earlier allows better gut and immunological development that can improve gut health and reduce pathogen carriage.

    We believe that this process can be developed as a usable product, and this project will produce further data particularly on its effect on the composition of the microbiome of the developing broiler and on immunological development to understand the basis by which transplantation works.

    To find out more about this project, please contact Paul Wigley.

  • Combating loss of food production due to fungal contamination and toxicity

    The focus of the project is directed at combating the loss of food production due to fungal contamination and toxicity, resulting from aflatoxin producing Aspergilli.

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    The aim is to identify natural isolates of Aspergillus Section Flavi that are non-toxigenic and assess their potential use as natural competitors to combat food spoilage and reduced harvest. Collaborators in Pakistan have taken samples of maize grain and soil from crop fields in different agroecological zones of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Aspergillus strains were isolated and sub-cultured for the identification of aflatoxigenic and non-toxigenic strains.

    The focus of the project will be to characterise putative non-toxigenic isolates. We will sequence the genomes of up to 10 strains in order to characterise them fully, confirming both their phylogeny and genetic potential for producing aflatoxin and other secondary metabolites. These data will be assessed alongside secondary metabolite assays, undertaken in Manchester. Replicate samples will be taken from at least two growth conditions (plant and synthetic media) to identify secondary metabolites that are induced by growth on maize.

    From the work in Liverpool and Manchester we will have completed the detailed characterisation of the selected strains prior to testing their efficacy in biological control. In Pakistan, corn ears will be co-inoculated with these strains and a toxigenic isolates in a glasshouse. Aflatoxin will be measured three weeks after inoculation and the candidate biological control strains ranked by effectiveness in reducing aflatoxin. From this initial screening, the two most effective strains will be selected for field testing and evaluation.

    To find out more about this project, please contact Mark Caddick.