The University of Kent is delighted to invite applications for a doctoral scholarship on a project starting in the academic year 2023 (from September 2023). This is an exciting opportunity for an exceptional PhD candidate to lead research to reduce food waste by investigating the production of novel, healthy ‘upcycled’ foods made from viticultural waste. It is anticipated that findings from this project will generate transdisciplinary knowledge on viticultural waste streams that can be used to develop innovative high value upcycled foods while reducing waste and promoting health.
This project is funded by the University of Kent Signature Research Theme ‘Positive Environmental Futures’. The Signature Research Theme’s goal is to find innovative solutions to urgent environmental issues and to facilitate trans-disciplinary work to understand environmental challenges, enable innovative and equitable solutions and deliver change. The aspiration of ‘Positive Environmental Futures’ is to nurture active areas of research expertise, provide space for new and emerging collaborative activity to grow and to build inclusive relationships with a range of external partners.
Food production generates large amounts of waste. Waste occurs at every stage of food production, reducing productivity and generating negative environmental impacts. Reducing waste requires innovative solutions; Upcycling of waste can in principle yield a supply of inexpensive healthy foods. In this project, we will innovate to reduce food waste by investigating the production of novel, healthy ‘upcycled’ foods made from viticultural waste. Upcycled foods are predicted to become a major food trend by analysts, retailers, media outlets, presenting major opportunities to reduce waste and increase the value of agricultural products.
The wine industry produces large amounts of waste from grape pressing and fruit deemed unsuitable for wine production. Grapes and grape skins have high levels of bioactive compounds with well-established health effects (anthocyanins and flavanols with cardiovascular-, neuro- and metabolic health promoting properties). Grape seeds are rich in prebiotic oligosaccharides (functional fibre improving gut health through the microbiome). Grape compounds have sensory attributes (smell, taste, texture) desirable for development of foods. Given that viticulture is rapidly expanding in Southeast England there are significant opportunities to reduce waste, increase productivity and profits by producing high-value upcycled foods.
Our project aims at innovating viticultural production to improve efficacy, reduce waste, generate new foods that improve health and create new business opportunities. The PhD student will work with the supervisory team to:
- Source viticultural waste with high potential value and build relationships with the industry: We will analyse the scientific literature to identify grape varieties with highest potential benefits. We will source information on products that can be developed and will interview viticultural businesses to identify and source suitable samples (varieties, waste streams) with high economic and health potential.
- Determine biochemical composition and bioactivity of compounds: Composition and concentration of compounds and oligosaccharides from viticultural waste will be determined and purified for bioactivity testing in ethical, sustainable whole-organism laboratory models (obesity, gut, muscular, brain, microbiome).
- Evaluate of market value and public perception: The business opportunity for novel upcycled foods with health benefits generated from viticultural waste will be analysed. We will design and perform a choice experiment to measure consumer preferences for upcycled food, enabling us to predict consumer behaviour for upcycled food with functional health properties.
The project integrates natural and social sciences transcending traditional boundaries. We provide an excellent training environment in which the student gains the skills and experiences needed to work across disciplines to support a transition to a climate smart society. Emphasis will be placed on translating specific research outcomes between the identified activities. For example, understanding which bioactive compounds can be used to produce products that are highly valued by consumers. The student will be trained in methods from different disciplines; biochemical analysis, biomedical testing, microbiological testing, use of ethical and sustainable laboratory models, economic modelling, survey design, econometric and statistical analysis using R (specifically Apollo) and other relevant software, and business engagement.
The successful applicant will be supported by an interdisciplinary supervisory team with a broad range of conceptual and methodological expertise across the fields relevant to the research proposal:
- Dr Marina Ezcurra, Senior Lecturer in the Biology of Ageing, Biosciences, Division of Natural Sciences
- Prof. Iain Fraser, Professor Agri-Environmental Economics, School of Economics, Division of Human and Social Sciences
- Dr Lorraine Fisher, Industry Research Fellow in Agri-biotechnology, Division of Natural Sciences
The supervisory team will provide training on the methodological techniques and approaches to be employed with this project. Beyond the supervisory team, the successful applicant will engage with wine producers in the region and a range of development opportunities (personal, professional, and career) provided through the Graduate Research College as part of the researcher development programme.
Postgraduate research students are acknowledged and regarded as a core component of the University and our ability to develop and deliver high-quality research. The PhD student will join a cohort of postgraduate researchers based in the School of Biosciences (Division of Natural Sciences) and be part of a growing community of PhD students associated with the University of Kent’s Signature Research Themes.
Informal enquires can be made to Marina Ezcurra email@example.com.