New Chair of Sustainable Agriculture

19 July 2010
Research into global food security problems has been given a boost thanks to a new partnership between Waitrose and Aberystwyth University.

In the first move of its kind in the UK, the supermarket is funding the Waitrose Chair of Sustainable Agriculture at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS). Professor Gareth Edwards-Jones has been confirmed in the role and will take up the post in September 2010.

The appointment is part of an innovative joint arrangement with Bangor University in which Professor Edwards-Jones will combine his work as Waitrose Chair of Sustainable Agriculture, with his position as Professor of Agriculture & Land-Use Studies in Bangor.

The senior appointment reflects Waitrose’s commitment to finding long-term solutions to food security and other issues affecting agriculture in the UK.
Professor Edwards-Jones comments “A key area will be looking at how farmers need to adapt and change to meet consumer demand. We want to bridge the knowledge gap between farmers and retailers by seeing how they can most effectively work together. The benefit for consumers will be increased levels of food security and production efficiencies.

“This will include looking at how the supply chain currently works - for instance how food can remain at its peak, ensuring it has the optimum nutrition content and is at its freshest,” continues Professor Edwards-Jones.

Research into sustainability will also be an important part of the role. Professor Edwards-Jones will be looking at how this impacts on the environment but also in terms of a healthy rural community.

“It’s vital that our research does not look at subjects in isolation. Environmental protection is key for the future of UK agriculture and at the same time ensuring farmers continue to run a profitable business,” concludes Professor Edwards-Jones.

The UK agricultural industry is undergoing a period of substantial change as it addresses an increasing number of issues. In addition, animal and plant diseases are ongoing threats that farmers and growers will have to contend with in the future, coupled with food security issues and strains on productivity.

Heather Jenkins, Director of Agricultural Strategy at Waitrose comments, “The new role will spearhead vital research exploring how UK agriculture can be a solution to these pressing issues. Professor Edwards-Jones is able to combine his knowledge of farming with science to help find some of the answers the industry needs.”

Professor Edwards-Jones has already been working with Waitrose to look at how farmers can lessen their carbon footprint. The project is vital in reducing and managing the impacts made by agriculture for the long-term benefit of the environment. 

Professor Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS said “The appointment of Gareth Edwards-Jones to the Waitrose Chair of Sustainable Agriculture is unique for being the first of its kind in the UK, for being a partnership between Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities and for forging links between agriculture, science and one of the  most leading and forward thinking great retailers. I am delighted with Gareth’s appointment and look forward to working with him.”

Professor Gareth Edwards-Jones
Professor Gareth Edwards-Jones' is a farmer’s son from Denbighshire with research interests spanning a range issues concerned with food production and wise use of the environment. These include carbon accounting, agricultural policy and the environment, the economics of nature conservation, the psychology of farming decision-making and agricultural development in Wales.

Waitrose has 231 shops in England, Scotland and Wales.  The latest Kantar data (12 weeks ending 13 June 2010) shows Waitrose achieving year-on-year growth of 11.2% - more than three times the market average, and increasing its market share to 4.21%.  Its strong performance has been driven by the introduction of the new essential Waitrose range, the successful conversion of Somerfield-acquired stores and free delivery driving rapid online growth. Regularly voted 'Britain's favourite supermarket'†, Waitrose combines the convenience of a supermarket with the expertise and service of a specialist shop - dedicated to offering quality food that has been responsibly sourced combined with high standards of customer service. (
† Currently Verdict, Telegraph Magazine Shop Awards, Which? Magazine Supermarket Satisfaction Survey.

IBERS is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for the study of biological, environmental and rural sciences.
It is a unique institution within Higher Education the UK which draws on academic expertise to undertake groundbreaking research to improve agricultural practices and to inform policy. The extensive range of work undertaken covers teaching, research, enterprise and knowledge transfer which enables IBERS to play a valuable role in the global drive to tackle some of the world’s most urgent challenges.

IBERS was established in April 2008 following the merger of the Institute of Grassland  and Environmental  Research (IGER),formerly part of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council(BBSRC), with Aberystwyth University.  IBERS continues to receive significant funding for research from the BBSRC and benefits from financial support from the Welsh Assembly Government, DEFRA and the European Union.
IBERS employs 300 staff, has an annual turnover of £25 million and represents the largest land-based science department in the UK. A major investment of £55 million is underway to help realise this vision.

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