PhD Studentship (3 years)

From farm to fork: building resilience into our food systems

6th April 2022

PhD Studentship (3 years): From farm to fork: building resilience into our food systems

Applications are invited for a three-year postgraduate studentship, supported by the College of Business and Social Sciences and to be undertaken within the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at Aston University. The studentship is offered in collaboration with the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC)

The position is available to start in October 2022.

Interviews of shortlisted candidates will be conducted during the week commencing Monday 23 May 2022.

The successful candidate will be notified by Monday 6 June 2022.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the UK/Home fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of £16,062 in 2022/23 (subject to eligibility). Applicants must be eligible for UK/Home fee-paying status.

Background to the Project

The sustainability and resilience of traditional food supply chains is under threat due to the impacts of BREXIT, the COVID-19 pandemic, and recent global events. There is a severe scarcity of labour on roads (drivers), fields (pickers), in processing and manufacturing plants (packers), and retail/catering (different roles), which impact the viability of small and medium enterprises within the food sector. There is a need to transition to new ways of working that are appropriate to different contexts.

On one side of the hospitality supply chain, there is the UK-based Bangladeshi catering sector that has been facing challenges in recent years due to demographic and economic issues, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and BREXIT. On the other end of the hospitality supply chain, we find producers, who are on the front line of changes to land management policies and changes to export/import rules. The potential (and real) loss of livelihoods has far more meaning than financial loss alone. Family, community, language, and identity are often tied up in specific modes of production and the sale and consumption of food.

Food producers, retailers, and consumers are often so disconnected from one another that there is very little communication from one end of a value chain to the other (i.e., from farm to fork). Building short(er) food supply chains (SFSCs) by bringing together microbusinesses in the farming and catering sectors could provide a way forward to help address some of the issues facing Bangladeshi caterers in the UK while developing more resilient food supply chains.

Our ambition for this research project is to foster greater connectivity between producers (farmers and growers), retailers/caterers, and those who buy their end products through knowledge sharing and learning, to develop more sustainable food supply chains that can improve business prospects without negatively impacting the socio-ecological contexts in which they operate.

We would also like the research to help reframe productivity in a way that recognises the impact of businesses on the environment, health, community, and culture, not only the financial aspects of our economy.

The learning arising from this research project will be used to influence critical policy decisions in a timely way on key issues such as productivity and sustainability of our food systems in the context of BREXIT and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Making sense of complex information and building new narratives is an important feature of this work.

By building connections between people and across disciplines, we have a huge opportunity to find new ways to solve our current economic, health, climate, and nature crisis.

We expect the successful candidate to engage in participatory research with relevant stakeholders in the food system so there will be a requirement to travel for visits and conduct online meetings.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution).

Essential:

  • A qualification at undergraduate degree level or above preferably in a social science, business, or environmental subject.
  • Interest in food supply chains, sustainability, and productivity.
  • Clear enthusiasm for the subject and willingness to learn and apply qualitative research skills.
  • Knowledge of different processes for developing creative solutions in tackling complex problems (e.g. action learning, participatory action research).
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to engage with people of diverse backgrounds.
  • Applicants must be eligible for UK/Home fee-paying status.

Supervision

The successful candidate will be under the academic supervision of Professor Monder Ram, the Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME). He is a leading authority on small business and ethnic minority entrepreneurship research and has published widely on the subject. He has extensive experience of working in and acting as a consultant to small and ethnic minority businesses.

Project supervision will also be provided the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) who are partially funding the studentship. The FFCC focuses on connecting food, farming and the public’s health, for a just transition to a greener, fairer economy, in response to the climate, nature and health emergencies. They convene diverse stakeholders to understand needs and priorities in different places and across sectors.

Contact information

For informal enquiries about this project, please contact Professor Monder Ram: m.ram1@aston.ac.uk