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Agriculture at Newcastle: our heritage

Current Research Projects

The Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) brings together leading science and research organisations and industries to support sustainable and profitable farming, encourage the adoption of new plant-protection products and provide technologies that empower farmers to tackle threats to crop productivity.

CHAP will help to meet the challenges of feeding the world’s fast-growing human population through the sustainable intensification of agriculture. It will give farmers and growers access to the most effective and sustainable technologies, strategies and products to improve crop performance, quality and yield – making a positive impact on farm revenues and margins.



The Centre for Rural Economy is a research centre at Newcastle University. It specialises in interdisciplinary social science and applied policy research. We work towards the achievement of sustainable development in rural areas.

Vast array of expertise

We boast one of the most significant groupings of rural social scientists in Europe. We draw knowledge from a team of more than 50 varied specialists, including:

  • economists
  • geographers
  • sociologists
  • food marketers
  • political scientists
  • psychologists

For more information about the research topics covered see the Centre for Rural Economy tab in the Expertise Groups box below.

The Institute for Agri-Food Research and Innovation (IAFRI) is a joint venture between Newcastle University and Fera Science Ltd (Fera).  IAFRI represents a new model for how universities can work with research organisations. It operates under a private-public ownership to deliver both innovation and wealth creation in strategically important industrial sectors in the UK.  It does this while operating for the benefit of society




Innovative agricultural solutions

Our facilities provide an open innovation platform enabling researchers to work with farmers, industry, and environmental and government stakeholders. Together, they develop innovative solutions for balancing sustainable global food production with a thriving rural economy and protection of the wider environment.

Our research helps us to understand:

  • the development and functioning of plant and animal hosts, pathogens and their interactions
  • the complex biogeochemical functions of the soil
  • crop and livestock health, welfare and productivity
  • environmental impact
  • interactions between the managed farm environment and the land-air-water interface.

We use this fundamental knowledge to:

  • integrate genomics, physiology and agronomy in molecular breeding approaches
  • develop and optimise farming systems

We collect real data from a network of on-farm crop, soil, livestock and environmental sensors. We use this data to calibrate and validate the digital technologies and models that help us in our research and developments.

Unrivalled expertise in animal science

Our novel, integrative approaches to animal science draw on fundamental research. We advance the health, welfare and production of livestock in an environmentally-sustainable manner. Our approaches meet the requirements of society, industry and policy.

The platform draws on expertise from across the University, including:

  • in-field diagnostics, sensors and pathology
  • molecular and whole-organism mechanisms of resistance
  • phenomicsremote sensing and crop and soil sensing
  • precision agriculture
  • big data analytics, artificial intelligence and mathematical modelling
  • engineering, machine learning and computer vision
  • soil health and nutrient dynamics
  • sustainable farming systems
  • animal behaviour and welfare
  • monitoring of nutrient use and mitigating wastage from animals
  • ecological network analysis
  • applied social and economic sciences
  • policy and rural economic development
  • nutritional quality of food and the impact of production systems

One of the two Government Agritech Innovation Centres that we are involved in, CIEL is a consortium of 11 world-class research institutes developing new industry-needed solutions.

The C-DIAL team (l-r) Dr Stephen Matthews (Computing), Louisa Craigs (Livestock Technician) and Mark Brett (Research Facilities Manager)

Our role in The Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) is to lead the Centre for Digital Innovation Applied to Livestock (C-DIAL).

Based at the University’s Cockle Park Farm C-DIAL is a purpose-built facility bringing the latest sensor-based and automated technologies to precision livestock farming, and equipment for the continuous monitoring of the performance, health and welfare of livestock.  Secure storage and processing of the large body of data generated can be carried out at the Centre and there are also conference and demonstration facilities on site.

C-DIAL is a cross-faculty initiative between veterinarians, animal and computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

Find out more by emailing NU-Farms, visiting the CIEL website, or downloading our C-DIAL_Leaflet.

Expertise Groups

We are harnessing natural sciences, data analytics and socio-economic sciences for agriculture, food security and rural development.

Food security and sustainability concerns:

There is increasing concern about food security and the sustainability of current agricultural production globally. The statistics make for alarming reading.

  • To meet global food demands by 2050, agricultural production needs to increase by 60%.
  • Feeding 9 billion people requires more food in the next 40 years than produced in the past 10,000 years.
  • We are losing species at unprecedented rates. This reflects the pressures current farming practices place on the natural environment.

We desperately need a sustainable system of producing food. We have to address the food needs of the growing human population while:

  • limiting pressure on resources (energy, minerals and water)
  • minimising negative impacts on the environment
  • not bringing more land under cultivation

Our group aims to find solutions to these challenges. We do this through strategic and translational research into sustainable agriculture and food systems linked to healthy rural communities.

Our facilities

We perform research at a range of scales from the molecule to the farm, accessing first-class facilities including:

  • commercial farm equipped to conduct cutting-edge science under real-world conditions in Northumberland
  • world class facilities on the university campus, for:
    • molecular biology
    • diagnostics
    • soil science
    • proteomics
    • analytical chemistry

We draw on fundamental research and apply it to areas of societal, industrial and policy importance.

Our ethos is to utilise high quality animal science to address challenges facing society, and our research involves a wide range of species including livestock, laboratory and companion animal species.

Our research extends from the molecular to the whole animal.

The main areas of research are:

  • assessing welfare and improving the wellbeing of animals
  • developing more sustainable livestock systems
  • investigating basic mechanisms underpinning animal function

 Our teaching underpins degree programmes in:

In order to address societal, industrial and policy questions, we have developed a number of successful partnerships to widen our research capacity and better realise the research impact. 

This has included collaborations in:

  • business management
  • food chain and consumer studies
  • food science
  • environmental science
  • engineering
  • computing

In 2013, we won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. It recognises the excellence of our research and teaching.

During the past 25 years, we have worked on many national and international projects. They cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • rural employment
  • rural policy
  • farmer and consumer behaviour
  • rural tourism
  • environmental management
  • rural communities and organisations

Our mission is to make rural lives better through research and sharing of knowledge. In pursuit of this aim, we:

Food Quality and Health Sciences research is focused on understanding how food and food constituents (particularly vitamins, nutrients and phytochemicals, as well as medicinal plants) affect human health and well-being, relating to healthy ageing, food security, sensory quality, international nutrition and personalized nutrition. FQH staff work in Newcastle and Singapore.

Much of the research is multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary, via links across disciplines within the School, and across the University through the Human Nutrition Research Centre. Each theme contains both publicly and commercially funded activities.