Meet the team: Dr Sally Howlett

 

I am impressed by the potential embedded in the N8 partnership and look forward to helping drive this forward through working with academics, industry and practitioners across disciplines and institutions.

I started working on the N8 AgriFood Programme as a Knowledge Exchange (KE) fellow based at The University of York on 1st March 2016 ­ and using my first week as a benchmark, it looks set to be a very varied and dynamic role! My initial few days saw me engaged in activities ranging from visiting a farm near Driffield in East Yorkshire with colleagues from York, Sheffield and Durham to join a group of farmers discussing EU farming policy, through to meeting a delegation of Brazilians hosted by The University of York who were interested in the aims of the N8 AgriFood Programme and how they relate to the agricultural challenges they face at home.

The international reach of the programme as well as its wide scope across the food supply chain and core focus on supporting collaborations between UK researchers and external stakeholders are hugely exciting. I am impressed by the potential embedded in the N8 partnership and look forward to helping drive this forward through working with academics, industry and practitioners across disciplines and institutions.

The path that led me to becoming an N8 KE fellow has involved different countries and a range of agricultural problems! Following a PhD in slug control at Newcastle University I spent some time in Belize collaborating on a pest control strategy for the national botanic garden. I then took up a role as a Plant Protection Scientist at AgResearch in New Zealand where I was based in the pastoral heartland of the country’s North Island working on the management of a variety of pasture pests. It was here that I developed an interest in engaging directly with farmers in ‘grass roots’ research and learnt at first hand the value of cross­disciplinary approaches to solving agricultural problems.

Upon my return to the UK, I put these experiences into a wider context working as a senior crops scientist on a number of EU funded, large­scale collaborative projects in sustainable arable production that brought together academics, farmers, commercial partners and advisors with wide­ranging expertise, from plant breeding to consumer acceptance of novel food products. A unifying theme throughout such integrated projects is the ‘multi­site, multi­institution, multi­disciplinary’ approach and underpinning its successful realisation is the need for effective translation, communication and knowledge exchange between different stakeholders ­ a need that N8 Agrifood is ideally placed to address.

Belize Botanic Gardens - Team

Belize Botanic Gardens – Team

In my first few weeks, I have been struck by the extraordinary breadth of expertise represented by the N8 AgriFood partners, from field biologists to health nutritionists and social scientists. This is reflected in the programme for the external launch which takes place on 21st­-22nd June and covers a diversity of topics of relevance interwoven across all three research themes that focus on key challenges in food security. Looking ahead, collaborations that bridge research and industry ­ bringing benefits to both ­ are increasingly shaping the form of funding calls and business enterprise initiatives. The N8 AgriFood Programme fully recognises this and, along with KE fellows in each of the other partner universities, the excellent researchers, industry associates and secretariat team, I am delighted to be able to contribute to it.

 

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