Farming & Research

Resilience of local food networks: a social network analysis

Hosted by UCLAN

Besides known negative effects to food security outcomes for vulnerable groups, the Covid-19 pandemic has also provided new opportunities for local communities to work differently and improve outcomes for those most in need. Our research used social network analysis to focus on the changes to interactions between local food initiatives in a local food system in the NW of England during a crisis (Covid-19). Using resilience as a framework to understand these dynamics, the paper argues that social preconditions, such as a previously organised local food network in partnership with local authorities, have helped communities to self-organise and respond to difficult circumstances. Moreover, it also highlights the ways in which responses to major disruption can bring about the collective questioning of current models of emergency food provisioning and create stronger collaborative bonds between diverse organisations, potentially improving food insecurity outcomes.

Participants in the session will get a good understanding of how local food systems can lead to better food security outcomes. They will learn about how knowing more about the interconnectedness of individual initiatives and organisations within such systems can help in identifying any key organisations that play central roles in aiding collaborations, and also learn about how to identify where more focussed work might be done to aid future collaborations. Participants will see how a crisis or disruption can help illustrate the role of some central organisations and bodies. They will have the opportunity to discuss and explore whether and how other organisations might provide some of the ‘glue’ that is provided by a local authority in our example, and whether this is the best / most democratic level at which this support and connectivity should be provided.

There will be the opportunity for open discussion. We would love to hear what people see as the constraints to the network we have identified. Where they see opportunities for changes and where they feel other sectors need to be included. There will be the opportunity to be involved in other community conversations if participants wish. The issues raised by participants will be used in analysing a further dataset the research team have on the Lancaster local food system. We intend to coproduce a set of principles for organising resilient and democratic food systems from the discussion.

Speakers/hosts include:

Mags Adams – Mags is a transdisciplinary social scientist whose research focuses on sustainability and understanding the interconnections between people, places and social practices. My most recent work is concerned with human relationships and local food systems, especially in terms of food sovereignty and justice. I have recently been working on local food systems in relation to food procurement, food consumption and poverty, and sustainable agri-food systems and food security. I co-founded the Food Geographies Research Group at the Royal Geographical Society and chaired the Underlying causes of food poverty panel in developing the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan. I am a member of the Steering Group for the Food Futures Partnership in Lancashire and co-facilitated a Community Conversation to take forward the Lancaster People’s Jury recommendations on food. I currently lead a project Food citizenship: ‘who decides what I eat?’.

Tanya Zerbian – Tanya is a DTA3 COFUND/Marie-Curie Fellow at the University of Central Lancashire with research interests revolving mainly around sustainable agri-food systems and food security, having a background in community nutrition and public health. She is particularly concerned about how governance and the organisation of food systems and power relations affect food justice and accessibility related to food poverty and the food system. Recent research projects and her PhD project include analysing urban food strategies, local food initiatives’ connections and power configurations in local food systems.

Annie Wynn  – Annie is the Development Director of Let’s Grow Preston. Let’s Grow Preston works tirelessly within the diverse communities of Preston to improve the environment of the City of Preston through cooperative environmental action. Our work and organisational values align with the Preston Economic Model and community wealth building. We have a radical, inclusive and equitable philosophy .

We operate two outstanding community gardens at Ashton Park and Grange Community Gardens, we are the umbrella environmental body for a thriving growing network of community groups such as park friends’ groups, food growing, allotment, environmental and community groups and associations.

LGP’s innovative work has put in place Public Liability Insurance and risk management procedures for all of its members to easily utilise to enable them to green the City of Preston for the benefit of people, wildlife and the environment.

LGP have run training and capacity building sessions with individuals and groups of all ages, backgrounds and abilities enabling them to create and care for community gardens, wildflower projects, food growing initiatives, beautifying grot spots and enriching biodiversity through sustainable planting schemes amongst much more. Our work has created real social and health benefits for those taking part in the volunteering and countless others who appreciate the transformative results in their neighbourhoods.

This has been recognised by the following awards

Social Prescribing Community organisation of the year 2021, Community group recognised for making real life changes to communities award by BBC Lancashire Radio Make a difference awards and Green Community Project of 2021 at the recent Best of Lancashire awards.

Familiar with public speaking, Annie has presented to Councils, national conferences and the most scary – the WI!

Building the evidence for nutrient dense food: Citizen science, feedback loops and peer-to-peer learning to empower the regenerative grower

Hosted by Growing Real Food for Nutrition CIC (Grffn)

This session introduces the concept of nutrient density and its importance for citizen and planetary health. Key findings from the Bionutrient Food Association’s research on crop nutrient variation will be presented along with an update on the development of the Bionutrient Meter. Growing Real Food for Nutrition CIC (Grffn) will give an overview of their citizen science project working with growers and farmers mainly from the UK, including Scotland, as grower partners learning how to measure crop quality, and provide results of vegetable brix values, a taste testing and demonstration garden trialling three different growing practices. Additionally, key advocacy messages will be shared, including the need to shift the narrative from food quantity based on yield to food quality based on nutrient density; essential for improving population health. 

Speakers/hosts include:

Graham Bell’s career as an internationally respected Permaculture teacher, author and lecturer has spanned over 30 years and in 1990 was the first person in Britain to be personally awarded the Diploma in Permaculture by Bill Mollison. During the nineties, he was lead instructor and trainer of trainers on the Countryside Premium Scheme (for farmers) in Scotland. Graham’s home in the Scottish Borders with his wife Nancy boasts the longest standing intentional food forest garden in Britain. His main career “is as a storyteller”, teaching about the living environment, sharing skills for a better future and respecting the prior knowledge of everyone who joins this progression.

Dan Kittredge has farmed organically for 30+ years, and is the founder and executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA), whose mission is to “increase quality in the food supply”.  As a leading proponent of “nutrient density”, Dan works to demonstrate the connections between soil health, plant health and human health. The Real Food Campaign, now the Bionutrient Institute, has engineered a prototype of a hand-held citizen spectrometer designed to test nutrient density at point of purchase. Via the Bionutrient Meter, the goal is to empower citizens to choose for nutrient quality and thereby leverage economic incentives to drive full system regeneration.

Matthew Adams is Co-Founder and Director of Growing Real Food for Nutrition CIC (Grffn). He studied Holistic Environmental Management (B.Sc.) and is inspired by Deep Ecology. Matthew was Director of The Good Gardeners Association (2000-2011) and author of ‘Beyond Organic, a Vision of the Future’, published in the Soil Association’s journal Mother Earth. He contends that food quality can be defined by its nutrient content which relates directly to ecosystem health – the aim of regenerative practices.

Elizabeth Westaway is Co-Founder and Director of Growing Real Food for Nutrition CIC (Grffn). She is an international public health nutrition specialist, who has worked since 1995 as a practitioner, researcher and consultant in academia, non-governmental organisations and the United Nations on health, nutrition, food security and agriculture projects in emergency and development contexts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Elizabeth has a PhD in International Development from the University of East Anglia, UK and interests in community-based nutrition, healthy and sustainable diets, food quality, nutrition security, food systems, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, livelihoods and poverty reduction.

Mark Ridsdill Smith founded Vertical Veg in 2009, after discovering how much food he could grow on the balcony of his flat. Mark’s website and Facebook page inspire and support people to grow food in small, urban spaces, and he has run workshops across the UK, including for Garden Organic and Capital Growth.

Mark is the author of The Vertical Veg Guide to Container Gardening: How to grow an abundance of herbs, vegetables and fruit in small spaces, to be published by Chelsea Green in March 2022.

The role of arts, culture and creativity in supporting a fair and regenerative agricultural transition

Hosted by the University of Lancaster

It is expected that cultural changes will be both needed and experienced by those involved in the rural policy and agricultural transitions underway. This is perhaps as true for those in Westminster as it is for farmers and land managers all over the country. In this respect, it is sometimes said that we need a new vision for our relationship to land. But what does this mean and who’s vision counts? Who’s visions have we inherited from the past and what is needed for the future? 
Arts and culture are often associated with urban contexts. But there is a growing movement which is concerned with the art of the rural— of environmental change, food, community and (agri)culture. This session will screen a film recently made in the Lake District National Park that brought together different voices and perspectives around the challenges and changes associated with the Agricultural Transition. Conversations during this session will explore how place-based arts and creativity can bring diverse people together into new collaborative settings, help us think about deep seated values and ask what role an art of the rural could or should play in making sense of the changes underway. 
It will also introduce a new project called The Once and Future Land, that aims to bring together Lancaster University with organisations of the North West of England, artists, land managers, researchers and policy makers. During this discussion we hope to get feedback and register interest from attendees.

Speakers/hosts include:

Louise Carver  – Louise is a researcher, curator, and writer. She develops creative and participatory forms of engagement working across geography, policy and the arts. She was recently a Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology Academic Fellow on ‘Sustainable Land Management’ in England. She is an Honorary Researcher at Lancaster Environment Centre.

Ewan Allinson  – Ewan is a sculptor, cultural landscape innovator, broadcaster, and Master Craftsman dry-stone waller. Ewan is the founder of the Northern Heartlands, a cultural and arts organisation working to give space to marginalised voices in farming, and an advisor to the Uplands Alliance. Ewan served as vice-chair of the award winning HLF Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership (HoT LP) from 2011-2016. He is currently undertaking PhD research at the University of Dundee’s College of Art, exploring the potential for art to help give voice to hill farmers and crofters embedded ways of knowing about land and nature.

Daniel Stanley – Daniel is the CEO of Future Narratives Lab and co-author with Shared Assets of the study “Power in Place: A New Narrative for Land”. Daniel is also strategic communications specialist, with a background in social psychology and community organising. He writes and lectures on narrative, values & framing.

Maddi Nicholson – Maddi is the Artist Founder Director of Art Gene in Barrow-in-Furness, along side Stuart Bastik. Her diverse practice involves working primarily with people and place – her interest is in communities: communities of people, of objects, of interest, of life – and the choices and allegiances that one makes. Her work is concerned with Art Gene’s role in bringing intelligent social and economic regeneration and reform to the Barrow-in-Furness area and beyond. 

Mapping local supply chain infrastructure

Hosted by Sustain

Sustain are mapping local food supply chain infrastructure across Lancashire. They are looking into existing farm types, crop types and infrastructure such as (abattoirs, mills, storage, packing, processing, distribution units) to understand how the structure of a business operates, what infrastructure exists across specific businesses and if there are any major infrastructure gaps that may warrant potential areas for investment.

This research will eventually feed into investment opportunities, a methodology and hopefully an interactive online map and resources for many to use. We are keen to speak with any food and farming businesses that feel they have knowledge, experience and expertise to contribute to this discussion – this is an opportunity to be included in a timely, exciting piece of research to strengthen local food supply chains that can be expanded across Northern England and Scotland.

Speakers/hosts include:

Amber Johnson-Lawes – Amber is a Consultant Researcher for Sustain and works for the Biodynamic Land Trust as a Communication Development Officer.

James Woodward – James works for Sustain as a Sustainable Farming Officer with a focus on agroecology, farming, local food, and supply chains.

How can agroforestry contribute towards climate change mitigation?

Hosted by the Organic Research Centre

National representatives have gathered for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). We know that more is needed, but how can we achieve it? The land management and farming sectors have a vital contribution to make to meeting global targets on climate change. Farmers and food businesses can be at the forefront of developing and implementing at scale solutions which cost-effectively address sustainability challenges. However, their contribution is often under-supported.

We believe that agroforestry can contribute to the achievement of future climate change mitigation targets, but what policy environment can support it? We will explore this question with a panel representing the latest research, on-farm experience, and policy developments, followed by open discussion with attendees.

In this session we will focus on the climate change benefits of agroforestry. We will explore the carbon benefits of agroforestry systems as well as how trees on farm can help build resilience and support adaptation to extreme weather events. The practicalities of implementation and the current direction of travel for support options via the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme will also be discussed.

After presentations by the panel, there will be opportunity to share your experiences and shape the conclusions drawn from the meeting. The presentations, discussion and conclusions will feed into the development a policy brief that will be delivered after the meeting: highlighting the benefits of agroforestry for climate change mitigation alongside recommendations on how these benefits may be realised.

Speakers/hosts include:

Becky Wilson – Becky is Technical Director of the Farm Carbon Toolkit and has been working with farmers for the last 8 years helping assess their current carbon balance, understand the practical mitigation measures available and implement them. She has been leading The Soil Carbon Project; a partnership project aimed at understanding the potential for soil carbon sequestration across farms, and how soil carbon can be assessed and measured in a way which is practical and robust.

Andrew Barbour – Andrew works on a family farming and forestry business in Highland Perthshire. Running both a cattle and sheep enterprise on land that is over 1000ft altitude, the family have long been interested in the role that shelter plays in the farming part of the business. Different generations have all developed shelter woods on the farm and Andrew is interested in the management of pastoral woodlands and how they integrate with grassland management.

Will Simonson – Will is Head of Research at the Organic Research Centre. With research experience in forest ecology at the University of Cambridge he also leads ORC’s agroforestry research programme. He was previously at a Cambridge based NGO working in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation using ecosystem-based approaches, including collaboration with The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Current and recent research at ORC is exploring the benefits of hedgerows, shelter belts and in-field trees for system resilience in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, including through the EU-funded AGROMIX project ( ORC also leads the ELM test: Designing an Environmental Land Management system for UK agroforestry (

Safeguarding our food and our farms – why new GMOs are a real and present danger

Hosted by GM Freeze

Most agroecologists understand that genetic engineering has no place in a responsible, fair and sustainable food system but the PR campaign promoting new gene editing techniques is clever, well-resourced and gaining ground. The UK Government is accelerating plans to remove vital regulatory safeguards and, with them, our ability to say no. Post-Brexit market rules mean that even Scotland’s strong policy rejection of all GMOs will be under threat if we don’t stop the headlong rush towards a high-tech quick-fix takeover of our food and our farms.

Join an expert panel to learn about the latest scientific and political developments as well as the most effective ways to make your voice heard. There will also be plenty of time for questions on any aspect of GM in food and farming.

Speakers/hosts include:

 Liz O’Neill – Liz is the Director of GM Freeze, the UK umbrella campaign on GM food, crops and patents. GM Freeze is working to help create a responsible, fair and sustainable food system.

Steven Jacobs – Steven is the Business Development Manager of Organic Farmers & Growers which certifies more than half of UK organic land and provides support, information and licensing to Britain’s top organic food businesses.

Pete Richie – Pete is the Executive Director of Nourish Scotland, a charity focusing on food policy and practice. He also runs Whitmuir Organics with his partner.

Developing supply chains for minor cereals in North East England

Hosted by researcher from Newcastle University and farmers, brewers and millers.

Researchers, farmers, brewers and millers in North-East England have been developing sustainable production systems for minor cereals, alternative grains and ancient wheat varieties. This panel provided a review of outcomes from experimental research at Newcastle University, commercial development of alternative crops from Coastal Grains Ltd, lessons from incorporating minor grains into brewing from Donzoko Brewing and specific experience in farming and milling organic cereals from Gilchesters Organics. Results from fields trials of organic wheats, spelt, rye, buckwheat and quinoa were presented and discussed in the context of the current supply chains for these crops from a North-East perspective. The session was particularly relevant to those interested in learning more about how to diversify cereal production systems, why these alternative crops and varieties are important environmentally and nutritionally and how the UK and regional supply chains for minor cereals are developing.


Amelia Magistrali is a post-doctoral researcher at Newcastle University who has spent the past five years assessing the potential of and developing supply chains for alternative grain production in North-East England. As a PhD researcher, Amelia studied spelt and rye variety performance with alternative fertilisers as part of the EU HealthyMinorCereals project ( and the DEFRA Sustainable Intensification Platform ( Amelia currently works with Coastal Grains Ltd (, a grain co-operative in Northumberland, on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to develop supply chains for novel grain production. Through the project, she works with farmers to trial commercial production of spelt, buckwheat and rye varieties, which has resulted in a well-established supply chain for regional spelt production and additional avenues for buckwheat and rye in the UK.

Andrew Wilkinson has been farming at Gilchesters in Northumberland since 1992, converting them to organic production in 2002 and establishing the organic cereal research programme for Newcastle University’s Nafferton Ecological Farming group in 2003 (NEFG). Alongside his own PhD research evaluating organic milling quality cereal production, long term cereal variety and soil fertility trials continue to be conducted at Gilchesters in conjunction with many international research partners to the present day . With the construction of their own flour mill, Gilchesters Organics, established in 2003, provides stoneground organic flour directly to artisan bakeries, chefs and home bakers throughout the UK. From his experiences in farming, milling and organic crop research, Andrew continues to promote sustainable, local production systems for UK producers through better cereal variety choice and short food chain networks.

Israel F. N. Domingos is a researcher with an MSc in soil science focusing on soil management and a PhD in agriculture focusing on production and quality of the pseudocereals buckwheat (F. esculentum Moench.) and quinoa (C. quinoa Willd.). He is currently working on improving vegetables and maize production under sustainable low input farming system in Cuanza Sul (Angola). His long-term research interests involve the development of a comprehensive understanding of alternatives for improvement and diversification of genetic resources to increase productivity and quality of arable crops.

Reece Hugill is owner and head brewer at Donzoko Brewing Company (, who make unfiltered, continental inspired lagers and ales in the North-East.

Upland perspectives: can farmers, conservationists and researchers work in partnership to grow carbon efficient, bio-diverse and food productive farming in the North

Hosted by Rachel Marshall, Lancaster University, with farmers and researchers.

This workshop explored the perspectives of farmers, conservation advisors and researchers working in the Northern English uplands and identify ways of working in partnership to realise the sustainable food production potential of agriculture in the region, alongside public goods. If participants were to visit someone’s farm or project, they’d all most likely come away with a different story of it, depending on their expertise and perspective. Despite often using different language and having different connections to- and roles within- the landscape there is potentially much to be learnt and appreciated through sharing stories, knowledge and expertise between these different communities.  

Farming is about to undergo a huge change in its funding structure with the move away from Basic Payments to a subsidy system based on public money for public goods. There are many debates about whether this approach will deliver the environmental and health benefits it purports. However, it does present an opportunity for knowledge from the farming, conservation and research community to be integrated to build a collaborative community around agro-ecological practices relevant to this region.

This workshop was an opportunity to share perspectives on what carbon efficient, biodiverse and food productive farming could look like in the Northern uplands. It sought to identify opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and for collaborations between different communities of practice. As a workshop group we identified potential gaps in the knowledge and support networks and explore models of future collaboration which could help fill these gaps.


Rachel Marshall works with researchers, communities and practitioners from across the the food system to create opportunities for knowledge sharing, collaboration and co-design of research. Her interest lies in how we can collectively create more resilient and regenerative food systems; from the agricultural approaches used to produce food through to how we create a fairer society where healthy and environmental food is accessible and valued. She is part of FoodFutures (North Lancashire’s Sustainable Food Network) and works regularly at Claver Hill, a community growing project based in Lancaster.

Kate Gascoyne works for The Farmer Network, an independent organisation that is run by farmers for farmers in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales. They provide help and support to farmers where it is often most needed giving them strong connections to all farming communities. Kate organises events and farmer group meetings and co-ordinates the Business Support for Young People project, along with a number of other farmer led projects. She is keen to develop new farmer-led projects to build on what has already been learned.

Nic Renison was born on the family dairy farm in Shropshire. It wasn’t until 2014 moving with her husband Paul to their own farm with a huge mortgage that the regenerative bug started to gain traction. Firstly, they lowered all inputs as they couldn’t afford them! Then they got to grips with rotational grazing and reinstating hedges for shelter against the helm wind. Sheep numbers have been reduced, whilst cow numbers are rising, alongside pastured pigs and poultry. Alongside the farm Nic works for AHDB, and is also part of the ‘Carbon Calling Conference ‘ team which is due to take place in Cumbria next June.

Lisa Norton is part of the Land Use Group at CEH where she has worked as a plant/landscape ecologist for 20 years. Her research focuses on monitoring and management of natural capital for ecosystem service (ES) delivery and she works closely with social and economic scientists and stakeholders in interdisciplinary approaches towards sustainable environmental management of farmland. She is PI on a Global Food Security funded project; Sustainable economic and ecological grazing systems – Learning from innovative practitioners, and is currently working on a range of other projects including SARIC Sheep on Arable, Defra Clean Growth, the ELM’s Test and Trials evaluation and with an Innovative Farmers Group investigating how to maintain diverse swards on permanent grassland in Cumbria.

You can read the session outcomes here.

Crowdsourcing ideas for farmer led research

Hosted by the Innovative Farmers network.

Peer-to-peer learning is key to collaborating on solutions to agricultural problems. Join Innovative Farmers for an interactive session to crowdsource ideas for agricultural research in the north with farmers setting the priorities. We had farmers fresh out of their field labs to soundboard ideas with, and a smattering of researchers to amplify the learning. Panellists explained their experiences in field labs before we handed over to the audience to workshop ideas for future research. Everyone who joined this session should have left with a good idea on how to set up their own on-farm research project.


Kate Pressland is the programme manager for Innovative Farmers. She oversees the programme’s network of on-farm trials (‘field labs’). Field labs support farmers interested in researching agroecological solutions to practical problems, by teaming them up with researchers to work directly on the issues the farmers face, on their own land, developing their own ideas. Kate is responsible for engaging with the programme’s stakeholders including farmers, producers, advisers, scientists, policy makers and industry bodies to develop farmer-led research as a key practice for improving agricultural sustainability and resilience. She manages its small grants scheme, which helps boost the ability of the field labs to understand if solutions investigated are effective. Kate also sits on the senior management team of Scotland’s own farmer-centric research programme Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS). Kate has a PhD in agricultural ecology and previously worked for 9 years in land management with farmers across the south-west in the conservation sector.

Despina Berdeni is a soil and crop research scientist at ADAS. She is also a researcher and coordinator for the field lab investigating management practices to increase deep burrowing earthworm numbers. At ADAS, her research has focused upon the interaction between soil biological communities, soil health and plant physiology within sustainable agroecosystems. She previously worked as a research associate in plant-soil interactions at the University of Sheffield after completing a PhD in 2017, where she used molecular ecological methods to investigate the interaction between soil microbial communities, soil management and crop performance.

Judith Conroy is a researcher for the Innovative Farmers field lab investigating alternatives to plastic-based mulch. With a background in organic horticulture, Judith is a researcher at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience. Her research focuses on organic and other sustainable growing systems with a particular interest in the value of these spaces for pollinating insects. Judith’s primary role is Project Manager of Organic-PLUS, an EU Horizon 2020 project comprising 25 partner institutions, investigating alternatives to contentious inputs in organic agriculture across Europe. Judith is also active in the project’s SOIL workpackage, trialling replacements and phase-out pathways for peat, plastic mulch and animal manure.

Richard Copley is a tree surgeon and cattle farmer based in Lincolnshire. He became interested in biochar as a way of utilising the waste coming out of his tree surgery business, Manor Farm Tree Services. In 2019 he was the host farmer in an Innovative Farmers’ field lab with the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience to test the benefits of feeding biochar to livestock. The research went on to show that the cattle that were fed biochar excreted less nitrate in their manure than those that were not fed biochar. Locking away a portion of the nitrogen that is excreted from cattle means less will leach into the environment when their slurry is used as a fertiliser in the field. Richard was also interested in how feeding biochar to cattle has an additional climate benefit as it sequesters the carbon from his offcuts when the manure is integrated into the ground.

Alternatives to contentious inputs in organic horticulture

Hosted by Dennis Touliatos and colleagues at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University.

This session was an open discussion about the challenges that organic vegetable growers face in terms of crop inputs. Particularly contentious inputs include peat for growing media, plastic for mulching, fertilisers derived from non-organic production and overall, the dependence on off-farm inputs. Although these issues are widely known, contentious inputs are often used because there are a lack of alternatives, or they are more expensive.

At the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University we are currently investigating peat-free alternatives, fossil-fuel free plastic alternatives, and plant-based fertilisers for organic growers as part of the European Horizon 2020 project ‘Organic-PLUS’.

This session discussed findings and exchanged knowledge and experiences with vegetable growers in the North of England and Scotland on contentious inputs and what they use (or do not use) and why. Participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas and insights, learn from each other and explore contentious inputs in organic horticulture and the implications of phasing them out.


Dennis Touliatos is an agronomist working on the European Horizon 2020 project ‘Organic-PLUS’, investigating fossil-fuel free plastic alternatives, peat-free alternatives and plant-based fertilisers for organic growers.
He also co-manages the ‘Lancaster Seed Library’, a seed saving project which focuses on collecting, saving and distributing locally adapted seeds, and reskilling local growers in seed saving. Dennis also sits on the management committee of ‘Claver Hill Community Food Project’, a peri-urban farm based in Lancaster, UK that uses no-dig methods to produce an abundance of organic vegetables.

Judith Conroy is a researcher at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience with a background in organic horticulture. Her research focuses on organic and other sustainable growing systems with a particular interest in the value of these spaces for pollinating insects. Judith’s primary role is Project Manager of Organic-PLUS, an EU Horizon 2020 project comprising 25 partner institutions, investigating alternatives to contentious inputs in organic agriculture across Europe. Judith is also active in the project’s SOIL workpackage, trialling replacements and phase-out pathways for peat, plastic mulch and animal manure. Judith worked on the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Blooms for Bees’, a popular project which created an app to help gardeners identify and record Bumblebees (Bombus spp.). Her work with bumblebees continues in TRUE, an EU Horizon 2020 project where she is exploring bumblebee preferences in heritage legume varieties. Judith has also contributed to citizen science research to identify ornamental plants at risk of becoming invasive.

Dr Francis Rayns has 30 years’ experience in agroecological research, specialising in the sustainable management of soil fertility, particularly concerning the use of green manure crops and the utilisation of waste materials in the form of soil amendments such as compost, anaerobic digestate and biochar. As well as in-depth replicated experiments this has involved on-farm participatory research methodology to maximise the relevance and impact of his work. He is currently a key researcher within the Organic-PLUS project that is concerned with developing alternatives to contentious inputs, in organic agriculture – this includes developing alternatives to the use of conventional animal by-products for crop fertilization.

You can read a blog post about the outcomes of the session here.