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Our Science Priority Areas

Key Priority areas

Crop Health

Around the world, plant pests and diseases have a huge impact on both global food security and our natural environment. To meet this challenge we need improved plant biosecurity to control new threats and better crop protection to manage existing ones. To be effective, we need innovative, integrated approaches, which also need to be both environmentally and economically sustainable.

  • Sustain our capabilities as a plant & bee health reference laboratory to ensure UK biosecurity
  • Working with our international partners to extend the reach of our crop health science for the benefit of the emerging economies
  • Develop new sustainable pest & disease management solutions, including biopesticides, to mitigate emerging risks including pesticide resistance & new invasive pests
  • Develop tools for understanding the behaviour & interaction of pathogens, microbes & chemicals in soil to improve management of soil health
  • Adopt interdisciplinary approaches & data integration to develop effective risk management & decision support systems

Measuring the impact of agriculture on pollinator health

Food Integrity

With increasing globalisation, our food supply chains are often complex, making them vulnerable to contamination or fraud. We need to give consumers confidence in the food they eat and industry protection for their brands and reputations. To achieve this it is necessary to take a holistic approach that integrates food safety, quality and authenticity.

  • Strengthen our core capabilities and sustain our position as National Reference Laboratory to provide world-leading food analytical science, proficiency testing & reference materials
  • Use non-targeted, omic-based approaches & horizon scanning to identify & provide solutions for emerging risks
  • Work with partners to develop new capabilities to link bio-analytical finding with health effects, including nutrition, toxicology & endocrine disruption
  • Integrate advanced technology, informatics & risk-based targeting to deliver smart surveillance systems
  • Integrate our capabilities in microbiology & genomics to deliver better control measures & address emerging challenges including antimicrobial resistance

Ensuring the authenticity of Manuka Honey

Next Generation Diagnostics

Measurement is core to what we do. In order to face future challenges in this field, we need to continue to pioneer new diagnostic and analytical technologies, allowing us to identify emerging threats and detect them earlier. We also need to use these approaches to develop innovative solutions and novel applications.

  • Establish omic technology-based systems that allow the routine identification of biomarkers and the development of high-throughput diagnostics
  • Accelerate the development of rapid, non-lab based testing technologies to enable remote deployment
  • Develop generic, integrated diagnostic platforms, including risk-based sampling, quality assurance & proficiency testing to allow for faster, more effective deployment & to ensure their on-going sustainability
  • Establish Fera as a nationally recognised centre of diagnostic excellence in agri-food & an innovation hub to accelerate the pull-through of emerging technologies into real-world applications

Tracking down the cause of Maize Lethal Necrosis

Sustainable Agri-food Systems

While we need to intensify our agri-food systems to meet the challenge of a growing population, we need to do so in a way that has less impact on our environment and which is more resilient to climate change. To achieve this we need to increase sustainability, by reducing waste, pollution and our reliance on non-renewable resources, whilst improving biodiversity.

  • Reduce pre- & post-harvest losses due to spoilage & contamination, including finding alternative uses for agri-food waste to minimise its environmental impact & maximise its economic value
  • Develop novel approaches to integrate traditional survey methods with technology-driven innovations, including remote sensing & meta-barcoding to enhance environmental monitoring
  • Create new solutions (including eDNA, aquatic ecotoxicology & hi-resolution analytical methods) for monitoring pollution, contamination & biodiversity in aquatic environments to address resource challenges facing water in the agri-food chain
  • Sustain our leading edge capabilities for assessing the environmental safety of chemicals to help minimise their impact on the wider environment

Using insects to produce protein for animal feed