UKRI’s multi million pound, five-year funding call awarded to TWO N8 AgriFood projects

A major UKRI funding call has seen two projects spearheaded by N8 AgriFood named among those receiving a share of the £24 million funding pot.

The funding, from UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), was awarded to four interdisciplinary projects that outlined ambitions of transforming the UK food system by placing healthy people and a healthy natural environment at the centre of their work.

Making up two of the four successful five-year projects are bids led by professors from N8 AgriFood institutions, including N8 AgriFood chair for the University of York, Professor Bob Doherty.

Professor Doherty’s project, Transformations to regenerative food systems (TReFS), sets out a vision for a Yorkshire food system constituting regenerative and equitable healthy eating for young children, supported by regenerative hybrid food economies and regenerative farming.

Wheat in field

The project will look at interventions in food retailing and farming to address issues such as childhood obesity, sustainability in agriculture and global warming.

Professor Doherty said: “Transformations to Regenerative Food Systems (TReFS) led by the University of York brings together a world leading interdisciplinary consortia of six universities (Universities of York, Leeds, Manchester, City, Oxford & Cranfield) and 21 partner organisations  who are committed to shifting our food system to one which prioritises dietary health in young people, and builds a more diversified hybrid food economy which sources produce from farmers that promote increased soil health, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

“TReFS will do this by a set of innovative interventions in Yorkshire schools and nurseries to change food environments and menus, scaling-up new community businesses, new models of regenerative farming, new measures and new policies.  Working with our national and international partners, we will catapult our transformations beyond Yorkshire to impact the broader UK food system.”

Also among the successful bids is Health soil, healthy food, health people (H3), a project led by Professor Peter Jackson, Co-director of the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield. 

Bringing together researchers from the N8 universities of Sheffield and Leeds, as well as Bristol, Cambridge and City universities, the project seeks to transform the UK food system ‘from the ground up.’

It will use an integrated programme of interdisciplinary research on healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people (H3).


Professor Jackson said: “The H3 consortium draws on the combined strength of researchers from Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cambridge and City universities and a wide range of stakeholders from government, business and civil society.

“Focusing on arable crops, horticulture, hydroponics and hybrid farms, and on the health benefits of biofortification and increased fibre consumption, the H3 consortium will identify practical paths towards food system transformation, delivered via a series of interventions: on farm, in food manufacturing and retail, and in terms of the health implications associated with food consumption in UK homes and communities.

”This is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity to use cutting-edge research to have a genuinely transformative effect on the health and sustainability of the UK food system.”

All four projects will focus on:

  • innovations from hydroponics and better supply chains to trialling interventions through action research
  • helping communities and individuals to make better, healthier food choices
  • transforming food systems in cities, regions and nations including communities encountering multiple health and environmental inequalities.

Professor Guy Poppy, Programme Director of the Transforming the UK Food Systems SPF programme, said:  “Never before has the role that the food system plays in both environmental and human health been so centre-stage. Major issues facing humanity such as addressing climate change and building back better post-COVID will be essential in improving health and wellbeing.

“I am really excited by the ambitious and transformative projects we have selected for funding – every single person in the UK could benefit from this research and we will ensure that the best evidence is generated to answer and offer solutions to the questions which matter and the decisions which need to be made in Transforming the UK food system.”