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The land sparing potential of vertical farming to support Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) deployment


Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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Dr Zoe Harris No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
Guildford United Kingdom Agricultural Sciences

About the Project

This is an exciting opportunity to work at the cutting edge of two essential technologies for a low carbon future, vertical farming (VF) and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Vertical farming is a way of growing crops indoors in controlled environment and offers the potential to increase food security. BECCS is a means of providing renewable energy and sequestering carbon to achieve net negative emissions and therefore our wider climate change goal of reducing global warming to below 1.5°C.

Vertical farming is a technology which is gaining popularity due to its ability to reduce the land footprint required for cultivating crops. Studies have shown that productivity per unit land area can be increased by 5-10 times. Given the parallel need to increase the amount of land for planting bioenergy to reach our global climate change goals through large-scale deployment of BECCS. VF has the potential to support BECCS deployment.

This PhD will assess the land substitution potential of vertical farming technologies at a global scale. You will explore which crops are currently commercially viable in VF and how field grown crops can be moved into VF production across the world. You will use spatial, technical and socio-economic modelling to assess the transition from field-based agriculture into VF. In collaboration the University of Aberdeen, you will then assess the potential to grown bioenergy crops in these areas where land has been ‘spared’.

Within this high impact project, there will be opportunities to engage with several key commercial stakeholders and policymakers, as well as the chance to present your work at international conferences. We will support development of your research skills as well as a suite of transferable skills including leadership, communication and project management.

Your principal PhD supervisor will be Dr Zoe Harris

This is a 3-year project starting in July 2021.

Entry requirements

Applicants must hold a First Class or Upper Second Class (2:1) Degree in a relevant scientific discipline (e.g. Environmental Sciences, Biosciences, Geography, Engineering). A Masters level degree would be desirable. The ideal candidate will have a passion for global sustainability, food and energy security and possess excellent written and oral communication skills. Experience with Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and programming (MATLAB, GAMS, R, Python, Java) is highly desirable, but not essential.

This studentship is available to UK and European students are welcome.

If English is not your first language, you will be required to have an IELTS Academic of 6.5 or above (or equivalent), with no sub-test score below 6.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Environment and Sustainability PhD programme.

Where you are asked to upload a copy of your research proposal – please upload a cover letter outlining your interest in this PhD project.

Please direct any questions to Dr Zoe M Harris through email [Email Address Removed]

Interviews will take place the week beginning 19th April 2021.

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