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Organic Farming and Food Production Systems - MSc

Course Description

This course will provide you with an in-depth specialisation in organic farming and food production systems and it is currently the only specialised MSc in organic and ecological farming in England. You will learn and test the latest approaches in the integrated delivery of soil, crop and livestock, and food supply chain management.

Through a combination of lectures, field trips, seminars, practical classes and research projects you will develop advanced knowledge and skills in:
-Managing organic farming and food production units or businesses in different macroclimatic, agronomic and market contexts
-Agronomic approaches used in organic/biological/ecological/sustainable food production systems
-Underlying principles and standards of organic/biological/ecological/sustainable food production, processing and retailing/marketing systems
-Applied and strategic research underpinning the development of organic and other sustainable farming and food production systems
-A wide range of analytical laboratory methods

You will have the opportunity to attend a 10-day field trip as part of the module on Mediterranean perennial crop production systems in Crete, Greece. The trip is organised in collaboration with ecological farming experts from the Greek National Science Foundation (NAGREF).

As part of your studies you will also undertake a major project, similar to one you might experience in the workplace. You will be supported through training in designing and delivering a laboratory project or field-based investigation. You will collect, analyse and interpret data to produce a thesis reporting your investigation and results in a critical manner.

This research project and thesis may be undertaken at the University, in industry, in Crete as part of existing Nafferton Ecological Farming Group research and development projects, or in another country.

Our staff

You will benefit from being taught by lecturers who are industry experienced and research active. Our research in integrated agricultural production focuses on soil science, plant science and ecology, spanning a range of scales from: pot – plot – farm – landscape.

Strategic research embraces work on:
-Soil quality
-Rhizosphere function
-Plant-soil feedback
-Soil-carbon dynamics
-Nutrient cycling

Applied research addresses issues of:
-Climate change mitigation (including biofuels)
-Ecological (organic) farming systems
-Low-input crop systems
-Agriculture-environment interactions

Professor Carlo Leifert is the Degree Programme Director for MSc in Organic Farming and Food Production Systems. Carlo is a member of the Food Security Network in the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS) and is part of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group (NEFG). He currently manages EU and DEFRA funded projects focused on improving resource efficiency, productivity and food quality and safety in organic and 'low input' crop and livestock production systems.


The course is taught in a block format with a six-week block and then two-week teaching blocks.

You will be taught through:
-Practical and field classes
-Case studies
-Small group discussions

You will be expected to undertake independent study outside of these structured sessions. Your knowledge and understanding will be assessed through written examinations, coursework, presentations and your final major project.

You can also study through the Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme (CATS). This allows us to award postgraduate level qualifications using credit-bearing stand-alone modules as 'building blocks' towards a qualification. This means that the credits from modules undertaken within a five-year period can be 'banked' towards the award of a qualification.

Visit the Organic Farming and Food Production Systems - MSc page on the Newcastle University website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Anastasia Fountouli

1678.jpg Why did you choose to study at Newcastle University?

I had a scholarship from a Hellenic institution that suggested me to study something new and innovative in Agriculture. Newcastle University was one of the top three universities I had in my mind by that time and it happened to have a course on ‘Ecological Farming’ that was something new and very interesting to me. In addition to that I knew what a great city Newcastle was from friends who had been there already.

What were the best aspects of your degree programme?

The opportunity to learn new things on Ecological farming, extend the theoretical knowledge that is necessary to pursue in a scientific conversation and the chance to travel to Crete for 2 months in order to get field experience.

What jobs have you had since graduating?

I got a funded PhD project 2 months before my graduation in. I moved to Cranfield University to continue with my PhD studies on Celery discoloration and browning that is created post-harvest, possibly due to pre-harvest factors.

My job is to understand the physiological and metabolism mechanisms involved in this disorder by identifying the key analytes associated with browning on the cut surfaces.

How has your degree helped you to get these jobs?

Without the knowledge that I gained from the scientific assignments I conducted during this course I would not have the confidence or the background to get that job. Further to that it is a great bonus to have an MSc on your CV.

Do you have a favourite memory of your whole postgraduate student experience?

Travelling to Crete for 2 months was my favourite part of the course. Not only was I in my own country but I had the chance to develop a high level of knowledge in the area of perennial crops production that due to climate conditions does not exist in the UK.

Learning about the organic olive oil production, harvesting olives and oranges and being actually able to see all these with my own eyes and not just read about them from books was amazing. Not to mention about the sunny days in the beach and the friendly people that I met over there. It was an unforgettable life experience that I will always remember. Too bad I can’t live it twice!


Entry Requirements

A 2:1 honours degree, or international equivalent, in a relevant subject. You will be considered on an individual basis if you have lower or non-standard qualifications and significant, relevant industry experience.

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