Third funding call launched by Horticultural Quality and Food Loss Network

Plant science and technology-focused researchers who have a particular interest in working to improve horticultural crop quality (fruit, vegetables and potatoes) and minimise post-harvest food losses are invited to apply for research funding.

The Horticultural Quality and Food Loss Network (HortQFLNet) aims to act as the leading collective voice for the UK horticultural and post-harvest community. It launched the latest funding call on 5th January 2022, kicking off the network’s third and final year.

There is a total of £90,000 available to fund pump-priming project applications in this call, with half of the funds being ring-fenced for Early Career Researchers. Funds of up to £20K each will be awarded to four or five projects, each with a duration of six months.

An additional £10,000 will be available to support academics and industry partners to encourage co-development of project ideas through Business Interaction Vouchers (BIV) and Networking Visit Funding (NVF).

HortQFLNet, funded by BBSRC, wants to attract fundamental or applied plant science-based and technology researchers to develop innovative scientific and technological solutions to reduce food loss and improve the quality of UK horticultural crops, connecting scientists and industry to co-develop ideas that could be developed into pump-priming projects.

It is estimated that one third of food produced globally is wasted before it is consumed. In the UK, this equates to more than 15 million tonnes of food and drink annually, worth in excess of £20 billion. Most waste occurs in the supply chain, before food even reaches consumers, because products do not meet quality expectations. This means there is a real need to understand how and where better crop quality and reductions in crop losses can be achieved.

The diversity of horticultural produced in the UK means there is unlikely to be  a “one size fits all” solution.

From a pure plant science perspective, the challenges are numerous but exciting. Methods of sustainable production and food system practices need to be better understood and further developed in order to deliver high quality produce to UK consumers. Solutions could look at increasing the harvest window, improving crop quality and uniformity, preventing post-harvest spoilage during storage and extending shelf-life.

Additionally, more applied technological challenges need to be addressed such as the demand for less plastic packaging and lowering environmental footprints for more sustainable production.

The funding call is open to all UK based researchers at UKRI-eligible institutions through a single annual selection process. Application forms can be found on the HortQFLNet website, along with guidance documents detailing the application and evaluation/selection processes.

The closing date for applications is 28th February 2022. Successful applicants will be notified by late April/early May and projects will be able to commence once the award funding process has been completed.

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