The N8 AgriFood programme is developing and projecting the North of England as a world-leading research and innovation resource by tackling the significant uncertainty in food systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted major challenges around the capacity of domestic food production and supply chain efficiencies, as well as the need to build diversity and collaboration in food systems for resilience and recovery.

In addition, the UK’s future relationship with the European Union implies a major overhaul of the system of tariffs, subsidies and income support mechanisms that have defined farming and food policy for the past four decades.

These regulatory changes, alongside population, market, consumer, dietary, climate and environmental impacts occurring at a global level, demand multidisciplinary approaches to understand and address key agrifood challenges.

Tackling complex challenges

N8 AgriFood has a unique capacity to tackle these complex challenges and instigate transformational change in our regional, national and global food systems. Due to the scale of our collaborations, we connect key stakeholders across the sector including industry, government, small to medium businesses, non-governmental organisations and charities.

We aim to generate new and critical knowledge by targeting funding opportunities, which allow us to leverage our ability to bring together the best people across various disciplines from the 8 most research intensive universities in the North of England.

This interdisciplinary approach is one of our key strengths. It sets us apart and provides a competitive platform for securing vital opportunities to change the food system. Click on the images below to find out more.

Our research activities

Our policy, innovation and international work

The focus of our work

N8 AgriFood engages with agrifood doctoral students from across the N8 universities. This involves students from multiple disciplines working on different aspects of global food systems.

We aim to complement the training received through formal doctoral training programmes and centres by:

  • Increasing our students’ knowledge of global food systems.
  • Developing their understanding of the complexities of food security challenges.
  • Encouraging appreciation of the interdisciplinary work needed to solve these challenges.
  • Developing our students’ understanding of how research can lead to social and economic impact.

We also aim to increase interaction between doctoral students and agrifood stakeholders including industry, government, small to medium businesses, non-governmental organisations and charities.

N8 AgriFood Doctoral Seminar Series

Here at N8 AgriFood, we offer PhD students the opportunity to take part in a free Doctoral Training Seminar Series. Each of the N8 universities committed to hosting a workshop that focuses on different themes within food systems research.

These seminars are open to any PhD student from an N8 university working on an agrifood topic. The events have rotated around the N8 universities and have given PhD students the opportunity to learn, as well as network with students from different universities and other disciplines, agrifood researchers and organisations working in the agrifood sector.

To date, we have held seven of the seminars:

  • Celebrating World Food Day: Sustainable food systems and research impact, University of York
  • Consumer perspectives on food fraud: Implications for the food industry, Newcastle University
  • Precision agriculture, remote sensing and autonomous robotics for agriculture and food, University of Manchester
  • Scientific publishing, Durham University
  • Walking the supply chain, University of Liverpool
  • Nutrient cycling in food systems, Lancaster University
  • Engaging with industry, University of Leeds

The final seminar will focus on achieving policy impact and be held at the University of Sheffield. It was unfortunately delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is due to be rescheduled for late 2020.

In addition, we plan to have a second series of Doctoral Training Seminars and details will be added to our events section when they are available.

Food systems training

N8 AgriFood has also run bespoke food systems training events for students. These tailored events were developed in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Food Systems Teaching and Learning Programme (IFSTAL).

They introduced participants to the concepts, theories and methods of a food systems approach, as well as trained researchers in food systems analysis and approaches.

They focused on viewing food production, supply and consumption as a complex system in order to deliver enhanced insight and predict the most impactful interventions, as well as increase resilience and sustainability.

The first event was an international Food Systems Summer School, bringing together UK, Ghanaian and Ugandan doctoral researchers and early career food professionals. The second was a two-day event at the University of York aimed at PhD students and early career researchers.

Doctoral training

Agrifood related research is a part of other Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) across the N8 universities.

These include:

  • BBSRC Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham Doctoral Training Partnership
  • BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology and its Strategic Application
  • Panorama NERC Doctoral Training Partnership
  • NERC Manchester and Liverpool Doctoral Training Partnership – Understanding the Earth, Atmosphere and Ocean
  • NERC IAPETUS Doctoral Training Programme
  • NERC Doctoral Training Programme – Adapting to Challenges of a Changing Environment (ACCE)
  • NERC/BBSRC Soils Training and Research Studentships (STARS)
  • ESRC Data Analytics and Society Centre for Doctoral Training
  • ESRC North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership
  • ESRC Doctoral Training in Social Sciences in the North East and Northern Ireland
  • ESRC White Rose Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership

Find out more about DTPs and CDTs.

News and events for the doctoral community


Here you’ll find various case studies of projects highlighting N8 AgriFood research with agrifood stakeholders and the impact they have had.

You can find out more about the policy work we do in our Food Systems Policy Hub.

The N8 AgriFood programme brings together world leading crop and livestock expertise with the translational capabilities of seven university farms to create a single research initiative focused on improving the sustainability of food production.

Collectively, our research focuses on the challenges involved in securing sufficient, safe and nutritious food in the face of climate change and increasingly unpredictable water supplies on both a national and global scale.

To achieve this, we take a food systems approach, bringing together industry and academics from a range of disciplines to combine practical and business experience with scientific knowledge to work jointly towards solutions.

We use the insights generated to increase the resilience and economic competitiveness of agriculture.

University farms in Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle

We undertake a wide range of research on our university farms focusing on both the arable and livestock agricultural sectors.

Through the N8 universities, we are able to access knowledge and share facilities across sites, which in turn increases the reach and impact of field-based research.  The N8 research farms are located across three of our universities – the University of Leeds, the University of Liverpool and Newcastle University. 

Our farm research activities
    We carry out a wide range of farm research including:
  • Ecological and agronomic studies of crop pests and beneficial insects
  • Intercropping approaches
  • Soil health
  • Farm scale research
  • Demonstration of new technology and farm techniques
  • Long-term split-farm comparisons of organic and conventional cereal rotations
  • Effects of different management practices on crop yield, health and quality factors 
  • Pig nutrition and wellbeing
  • Lameness diagnosis and treatment in cattle
  • Control of liver fluke in sheep
  • Sustainable use of antimicrobials
  • Economics of animal health, livestock production and livestock food systems
N8 AgriFood projects involving farmers and N8 partners