Earth Smart RTU with agri-tech sensors
By bringing research directly into the field, working with farmers, landowners and communities, we are co-creating sustainable land management strategies. We are developing practical approaches to using advanced agri-tech and sensor technology to provide rapid, real-world data that can be applied at the right time and in the right place for productive, sustainable, healthy landscapes.
At Plymouth, we are bridging the gap between research and action – we are Earth Smart.

No food, no future...

Food Smart
Richard Preziosi in the field with a bird
Professor Richard Preziosi: A life surrounded by science
Earth Smart sheep with biologger collar

... can low-cost sensors ensure food security?

Our agricultural soils are becoming depleted, leading to growing pressure on our food production systems. Chemical inputs and intensive farming practices can only go so far in maintaining yields, and it is becoming ever more vital to find a balance where we can renew our landscapes without losing productivity.
At Plymouth, we are working across the entire South West agricultural system, from horticulture in Cornwall to pastoral land in Devon and arable farms in Somerset. This ‘living laboratory’ provides a unique proving ground where we can validate practical agri-tech solutions and develop the evidence base for best-practice approaches to agricultural regeneration, with both regional and national impact.
Dr Mark Whiteside holding biologger collars Earth Smart

'Living laboratory' answers key sustainability questions

Drones with sophisticated mapping equipment, robots armed with a suite of sensors, in-field genetics testing kits to explore the biodiversity of soil – farmers and researchers are working together to develop a set of practical tools that can be adapted to local conditions and individual farms, for rapid, on-site analysis of crop health, animal welfare and environmental impacts.
Professor Richard Preziosi and Dr Mark Whiteside explain how agri-tech can help to achieve healthy landscapes without harming productivity

Read the full article now
Published in Farmers Weekly, 14 June

Featured sustainable food production research


Don't drain the swamp...

Scott Davidson using a gas analyser in the wetlands

... can we measure the worth of peat as a nature-based solution?

Healthy landscapes don’t just provide fertile ground for sustainable food production, they can also provide potential solutions to a wide range of climate challenges. From sequestering carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to providing rich habitats that could support our declining biodiversity, careful land management can help us to build national climate resilience.
From peat bogs and forested wetlands in the UK, to Peruvian glaciers or the rainforests of Ghana, our transdisciplinary work connects research with practice and local communities. Novel applications of sensor technology and a hands-on approach to environmental data are allowing us to build the evidence base for nature-based solutions to climate change.
Gas analyser for monitoring emissions from peatlands

Peatlands are nature’s unsung climate warriors

Peatlands are among the most critical ecosystems on earth. It is surprising, then, that despite public support, many environmental protections for peatland have failed to materialise. From peat cutting and burning to the continuing sale of peat-based compost, these habitats are under threat. Has their public image led to them being misunderstood and underappreciated?
Find out why Dr Scott Davidson thinks we need to change our perspectives on peatlands and their value to climate resilience.
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Published in the New Statesman, 6 June

Featured climate resilience research


Our soil is dying...

Soil Smart campaign branding
Will Blake Soil Smart
Professor Will Blake: Palm oil, avocados and... soil?
Carrying the Medusa gamma soil sensor in Tanzania

... can sensors provide practical solutions for healthy soils?

Tackling climate challenges needs to start from the ground up – healthy soils form the foundation for resilient, productive landscapes. Understanding the condition of our soil microbiomes could help us to develop adaptation strategies to ensure food security and healthy landscapes, even as the climate continues to change.
But climate-smart land management decisions require accurate and reliable environmental data. We collaborate with local farming communities around the world to validate and ground-truth the data that can be provided by novel environmental sensors, building capacity to tackle landscape-level challenges at a global scale.
Soil Smart the Medusa sensor

How soil health collaborations are changing agriculture

A critical soil health challenge that we currently face is how to replicate laboratory data in the field, in a way that is more rapid, more representative of the real environment, and made in collaboration with the landowner. We’ve been developing approaches to using mobile environmental radioactivity sensors to allow farmers to make informed land management decisions at the right time, to improve food security, climate resilience and our ability to reach net zero.
Learn how Professor Will Blake is using nuclear and isotopic techniques to shine a light on soil health.
Read the full article now
Published in New Scientist, 20 June

Featured soil health research


Practical solutions for healthier soils

Many of our agricultural soils are in trouble

Food production is often in opposition to biodiversity and ecosystem service preservation – we need to support farmers with incentives to protect soil, backed by a comprehensive soil assessment programme, if we are to improve the resilience of our food systems.
Research at the Centre of Research excellence in Intelligent and Sustainable Productive Systems aims to develop practical solutions for healthier soils and a secure food supply.
In this film, Dr Jennifer Rowntree explains how in-field research is essential in validating new sensor technology and approaches to soil analysis, and why agri-tech could help to improve soil biodiversity and the health of our farmlands.

Bringing research expertise into the field

We are keen to collaborate with farmers and industry partners to further develop our research-driven approach to agriculture and aquaculture. 
Our work at the Centre of Research excellence in Intelligent and Sustainable Productive Systems contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals by securing the future of sustainable food production.

Centre of Research excellence in Intelligent and Sustainable Productive Systems (CRISPS)

CRISPS brings together a vibrant community of transdisciplinary researchers, working towards addressing the challenge of sustainably feeding a global population of 9 billion. Founded upon research excellence in aquaculture, agricultural technology and soil health, and underpinned by investment in cutting-edge facilities, the Centre will create the critical mass required to ensure impactful research and real-world deployment in the UK and beyond.
Centre of Research excellence in Intelligent and Sustainable Productive Systems
Aerial view from high altitude of little planet earth with small village houses and distant green cultivated agricultural fields with growing crops on bright summer evening

Sustainable Earth Institute

The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world.
We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges. 
We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business.