N8 AgriFood to play a key role in Chinese rural revitalisation as MoU progresses

N8 AgriFood’s second visit to China in 2019 saw the programme’s academics called upon by Chinese policy makers to contribute expertise to the country’s rural revitalisation along with advances towards a second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with another research institute in China.

Earlier this year N8 AgriFood signed an MoU with the Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences (JAAS) to support the establishment of a Research and Innovation Centre, designed to create a joint platform for supporting knowledge generation and technology transfer across the agri-food sector.

Following a visit to China in March 2019, a delegation of N8 AgriFood representatives returned last month to visit the Jiangsu academy and progress talks surrounding the MoU. Attending meetings and visits were N8 AgriFood’s International Strategy Manager Marianna Ventouratou-Morys, N8 AgriFood Theme 3 Lead Professor Jason Halford, N8 AgriFood Chair at the University of Leeds Professor Louise Dye, and N8 AgriFood Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the University of Liverpool Dr Peter Walley.

During meetings with the JAAS President in Chengdu, and the Vice-President in Nanjing, it was agreed joint parties will now work to establish a three year plan and appoint fixed contacts for both sides under the proposed new Research and Innovation programme, as well as encouraging joint international funding applications and knowledge exchange alongside a fixed academic exchange programme. N8 Agrifood was also invited to support farmers in ten model villages with technology and knowledge transfer. 

The visit also enabled the progression of individual N8 AgriFood-JAAS projects, including work led by Peter Walley on brassica tolerance growth in saline conditions and metabolites associated with quality and flavour. Peter Walley presented his work at the Institute of Vegetable Crops at JAAS and discussed how to open up the collaboration across the N8 institutions. Jason Halford and Louise Dye met with food scientists from the Institute of Farm Product Processing to develop exchanges between JAAS and the N8 around the development of healthy food products.

While in China Louise Dye also visited Zhejiang Gongshang University (ZGU), where work centered around the development of an MoU for the establishment of a joint N8-ZGU Centre for Human Eating Behaviour, which would involve joint research programmes, and work on eating capability and cognitive decline in the elderly.

The collaboration was initiated by the China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC), which also intends to support joint activities with N8 AgriFood around cold supply chain engineering, dietary interventions in rural areas, front pack labelling for health, AMR of poultry and pigs, genetic variation of blueberries, and diabetes treatment and prevention.  

Last month’s tour also saw Jason Halford, Peter Walley and Marianna Ventouratou-Morys attend a special meeting at the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, organised by the British Embassy in Beijing.

Ministers were keen to learn best practices for ecological farming and asked N8 AgriFood for policy support with the rural revitalisation and smallholder farmers. The Ministry has 15 Eco-Farms and is in need of support to improve running costs and operational efficiencies. Following N8 AgriFood’s visit, the Embassy is now leading the drafting of a framework for cooperation addressing key joint problems including greenhouse gas emissions reduction with input from experts from N8 AgriFood as well as from the University of Nottingham and the AgriEPI Centres.

N8 AgriFood were invited by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) to present at the 6th Global Forum of Leaders in Agricultural Science and Technology (GLAST) a bi-annual event co-organised with  FAO and CGIAR. GLAST-2019 took place in Chengdu, where Professor Jason Halford presented the impact of Brexit on dietary choices and agricultural imports on a plenary panel, while Dr Peter Walley contributed to the CAAS-FAO “Declaration of Chengdu”. Marianna Ventouratou-Morys presented N8 AgriFood’s ‘Rurban Revolution’ project at a GLAST2019 subforum on Rural Revitalisation at the Tianfu New District Park City to an international audience.

Following N8 AgriFood’s visit the Vice President of JAAS has organised a return visit in early 2020 to tour the N8 institutions.