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Can More Circular Systems Deliver Net Zero Agriculture And Other Environmental Benefits?


   School of Natural Sciences

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  Dr J Gibbons  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Following a recent ERANET-Cofund research call, Bangor University invites applications for a fully funded (Defra) three-year research PhD studentship assessing the effect of increased circularity on English and Welsh agriculture. It will cover tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend at the standard UKRI rate (£15609), as well as a travel budget for workshop and conference attendance. The studentship is available from 1 March 2022.

The agricultural sector must contribute to enabling the UK to meet its ambitious Net Zero Emissions target for greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050. Many historical policies, together with market drivers, have resulted in ongoing specialisation of crop and livestock systems; and whilst this may have increased farm profitability, it has led to greater externalisation of environmental costs of food production, e.g. increased emissions of GHGs and ammonia.

Improving resource use efficiency to maintain food output whilst reducing inputs (nutrients, land, energy, and water) is imperative to transition to sustainable food systems. The principle of circular agriculture is critical, and can be defined as the re-use and recycling of resources (e.g. nutrients) within and across the sector.

Whilst much is known about the technical potential for on-farm mitigation strategies to reduce GHG emissions, much less is known about how improving the circularity of material flows between farms can reduce total and product GHG emissions from more integrated farm systems. The PhD will be part of the wider international ERA-NET CircAgric-GHG project which brings together a multidisciplinary, world-leading team of scientists with expertise in specialist and mixed crop and livestock farming systems (MCLS), circularity, GHG mitigation, (inter-)systems modelling, digital agriculture, remote sensing, sustainable land use, and farm socio-economics to help address this knowledge gap. In addition to strong pan-European expertise, CircAgric-GHG includes partners from the Global Research Alliance (GRA), which is a collaborative global network of researchers addressing global agricultural challenges, such as increasing agricultural and livestock productivity (producing more with less) while at the same time reducing environmental impacts by e.g., reducing GHG emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.

The main contribution of the PhD student and the Bangor University team to the overall CircAgric-GHG will be within the following areas: Measuring representative farming systems; Enhancement of circularity effects on GHG emissions and wider sustainability; and Adoption and scaling. In addition, there will be contributions to the wider project in Optimising circularity within and between farming systems, and Synthesising data and out-scaling the results. The PhD student will apply the novel circularity modelling framework developed by CircAgric-GHG to the selected English and Welsh farm typologies (covering sheep/beef, dairy, dairy/beef, mixed and arable farms located in Wales, and the North West and West Midlands regions of England), covering the main farm systems where circularity benefits can be realised.

There are economic, practical and social challenges to, and opportunities for, adopting integrated, more circular practices within agriculture. In recognition of this, the PhD student will determine stakeholder perspectives about adopting circularity-based GHG strategies including any policy, institutional and/or market barriers affecting transition. This will involve

convening a multi-stakeholder platform, including farmers, key supply-chain actors and influencers to understand perspectives on the adoption, or otherwise, of circular innovations.

In summary, the main objectives of the PhD are:

· To define the circularity baseline for a range of English and Welsh farm types

· To quantify how circularity practices can enhance GHG mitigation potential

· To evaluate circularity, economic impacts and GHG mitigation together: trade-offs and co-benefits

· To assess the barriers to, and opportunities for, adoption of circularity practices

Selection criteria:

· Candidates must be a UK or Irish national or a EU national with settled status or pre-settled status and 3 years residence in the UK

· Applicants should hold a first or upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in agriculture, economics, environmental science or a related degree.

· An awareness of the demand for and barriers to circularity and GHG reduction in agriculture is desirable.

· Prior experience of data analysis, modelling, life cycle assessment or programming is essential.

· Some prior experience of conducting surveys/interviewing/focus groups would be an advantage, although further training in data collection and analysis will be provided.

· Ability to engage with farming and related stakeholders to explore the issues in question is essential.

The Bangor supervisors are James Gibbons ([Email Address Removed]) & Sophie Wynne-Jones ([Email Address Removed]), please contact either for informal inquiries.

To apply for this fully funded post, please email a current CV and covering letter (2 A4 pages maximum) to [Email Address Removed] by 11th February 2022.

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