Research Group: Resilient Food and Water Systems in Practice

Research Group: Resilient Food and Water Systems in Practice

This research theme focuses on new theoretical and practical knowledge of processes enabling resilience in water and food systems. This research is transdisciplinary, reflecting membership across the natural and social sciences, practical knowledge and methodologies. Such transdisciplinary research also underpins the development of novel technologies (e.g. biochar for carbon sequestration, sustainable drainage in challenging environments, regenerative soil fertility management) or as components of larger systems around water and food. In addition, the theme addresses the resilience potential of whole systems and their communities in rural and urban settings (e.g. circular systems combining food and energy production with water and waste management).

About our group

Individual technologies and techniques based on the principles of ecology, agroecology, hydrology, and eco-mimicry can ensure a wide range of ecosystem services and support for ecosystem health. Examples include carbon farming to mitigate climate change, energy efficient agriculture, participatory plant breeding, rainwater harvesting, nature based solutions, agroforestry and the further development of organic and biodynamic farming.

Individual and whole systems can be developed for stabilisation, to enhance the ability of agriculture and water management to withstand and respond to natural disasters and those caused by society. This includes re-establishing, or stabilising agriculture with access to water after human-induced or natural disasters, sustainable management of abiotic stresses in agriculture such as drought, salinity, contaminated land, and the sustainable management of biotic stresses, such as invasive plant species or insects.

By bringing together action and reflection, science and practice, our research in this area uniquely includes water users, food/fibre providers (farmers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, peri-urban farmers) and other citizens in defining research objectives. This direct co-creation of knowledge is essential in the context of rapid change in which collective problem-solving is needed to develop resilient food and water systems. Combining natural and social sciences with such practical and community knowledge is crucial.

Project spotlight

Tomato plants growing in organic soil.

Organic-PLUS (O+)

In 2024 organic will be 100 years old as a social movement, and 33 years as a law (legally enforced standard for food and farming). O+ will bring organic production to the next level by phasing out remaining contentious inputs (copper-fungicides, peat, plastic, antibiotics, fertilisers from conventional agriculture with pesticide residues).

Large tree.


This 4-year 1.2 m project creates knowledge to understand ecosystem services of agroforestry systems through a holistic methodological framework across 3 continents: Europe, Africa and South America

Cows wandering round a field.


This 4-year 7 m participatory research drives the transition to resilient and efficient land use in Europe with agroforestry and mixed farming systems, fundamentally transforming landscapes and removing intensive livestock farming systems.

Farmer pulling carrots out of the ground.

Agroecology for Europe (AE4EU)

This 3-year, 2 m project works closely with the Standing Committee of Agricultural Research and includes non-EU European countries using living labs, funding, education and policy to investigate agroecological transition in Europe.

Carrots being chopped on a board with other veg surrounding it.

Diversifying sustainable and organic food systems (FOOdIVERS)

This 3-year €1m project is funded by Defra and the CORE Organic Cofund to assess how healthy and diverse diets can contribute to the policy target of “25% organic land use by 2030” to reduce sea and terrestrial pollution.

Theme lead contact

If you wish to find out more about this theme, please get in contact with Sue Charlesworth.

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