A professor in plant nutrition from the University of Nottingham has won a prestigious Innovator of the Year award for international impact, in recognition of his world-leading research into solving hidden hunger.
Professor Martin Broadley, jointly with Dr Louise Ander of the British Geological Survey (BGS), were presented with the award by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for their pioneering work on GeoNutrition and the spatial aspects of hidden hunger. This project is supporting international efforts to reduce micronutrient deficiencies (MNDs) in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. These MNDs are often called ‘hidden hunger’ because they can arise even when a person’s energy intake is adequate and can cause a profound disease burden at population levels.
The BBSRC awards are designed to recognise the full breadth of impacts that BBSRC investments in research have, from creation of spinout companies or social enterprises, to working in collaboration with business and NGOs, to working with policy makers, both in the UK and abroad.
Professor Broadley said: "Louise and I are delighted and honoured to share this award. The judging panel were interested to hear how a project with its roots in innovative approaches to spatial micronutrient mapping in UK food systems, supported by BBSRC funding, is now being applied on cross-national and regional scales. What clearly impressed them further was the collaborative ethos of GeoNutrition, how we communicate and work with our partners and empower local, long-term solutions to this global challenge by building their research capacity."
Dr Ander added: "Our international partners want to work with us; they no longer need to. By funding equipment, training and supporting PhDs in Malawi and Ethiopia, we are building real partnerships. This is a real accolade for the University, BGS and our UK partners but what is truly significant is that our international collaborators share this honour with us."
Evidence for improvement
The GeoNutrition project aims to improve baseline evidence on the prevalence and causes of MNDs, and test a promising strategy to alleviate MNDs called biofortification which seeks to improve the micronutrient content of food crops.
A £4.4m grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping the GeoNutrition team gather and analyse data on MNDs. Teams of researchers and technicians from Nottingham and Malawi are currently sampling soils and cereal crops in Malawi to build up a national picture of the quantities of nutrients in soil and crops, which in turn critically affects human health.
Data from this sampling will be used to support decision making in both policy and industry sectors; and test agricultural and food systems interventions to reduce MNDs in geographical contexts.
Interntional partnership building
Critical to the work has been to develop new ways of data sharing and management across both the public and private sector. To achieve this the wider team has made long-term commitments to international partnership building, capacity strengthening, and training which includes the development of doctoral training programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Royal Society and further studentships supported by the new Future Food Beacon of Excellence.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Nottingham, said:
"Professor Broadley's recognition is testament to his vision and passion for building world-class research partnerships, both here in the UK with world-leading institutions such as the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Rothamsted Research, and in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, where GeoNutrition's emphasis on building in-country research capacity in Malawi and Ethiopia and Pakistan will help secure long-term, sustainable solutions to the challenge of hidden hunger.
"I am also delighted that Martin shares this award with Dr Louise Ander. The University has a long-standing partnership with the British Geological Survey and the ambition of this project and its innovative spatial mapping of micronutrients in food systems on national scales was made possible by our shared expertise."