Using biotechnology to add value to uplands agriculture and biomass waste through processing into products for horticulture (PhD Scholarship)

Applications for this scholarship are now closed.

Aberystwyth University, IBERS

Project ID: AU30018
Annual Stipend: £14,340
Application Deadline: Closed

This exciting new project will involve a biotechnological approach for improving production of food crops in enclosed environments using the bi-products obtained from the processing of waste vegetation/agricultural residues. Freeland Horticulture is the entrepreneurial lead wanting to expand their portfolio by developing new renewable applications for horticulture. We will use a significant source of waste biomass available in uplands and develop ways to process the biomass to improve horticulture. The project will seek to add value to what would otherwise be waste products and aims to use these to improve production of food and other non-food plant products in the UK by creating a more circular and closer to market system for horticulture. This will reduce food waste and secure local supply chains to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables that are key to a healthy diet as well as create a new link between rural and urban economies.

Upland sites represent 17% of land in England and the majority of farmed land in Wales is classified as Least Favourable Area (LFA). The project will seek to explore ways to add value to uplands and LFA by processing waste or low value products into products of value for food production in horticulture. One approach will utilise biomass that is being harvested from uplands as part of a management strategy to maintain biodiversity. Our project will test the impact of pre-processing the biomass into products that can enhance horticultural production including CO2 enhancement and substrates for plant growth. The project will link with the company’s other activities in testing novel air filters and monitoring gases at a sister company Freeland Scientific.

This is an opportunity to work with a successful company with the drive to create a more integrated and sustainable food system that will undoubtedly become even more critical as different opportunities arise in food production over the coming years. The studentship would suit a person that has a background in Biotechnology or Biological / Environmental sciences or but has some understanding of Plant Physiology and / or Horticulture. The individual will be a creative innovator interested in science that has an impact on our future. S/he must be numerate, possess strong writing skills and be able to project manage with a focus on responding to targets and delivering output. As part of this project the student may be expected to spend periods working at Freeland Horticultures facilities in Wales and England.


Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

The successful candidate will need to be resident in the convergence area on registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification. The successful applicant should have a minimum of a 1st or good 2(i) in a relevant degree, and be available to take up the studentship by January 2018. The project is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Government. KESS II PhD scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners. (Applicants need to only apply, they do not need to search for partners).


To apply, please submit the following to the Postgraduate Admissions Office (address below) by 24th November 2017.

  1. A completed Research Programme Application Form, two references. Application and reference forms may be downloaded from
  2. A completed KESS II Participant proposal form (put the reference number AU30018 in the top right hand box of the application form) and an up-to-date CV. KESS II application forms are available to download at the link below.

  1. A PhD proposal of up to 1,000 words where you expand on your experience and interests and describe why you are a good candidate for this research studentship. Please refer to the Project Description.


Value of Award: A stipend of £14,340 (rising in accordance with inflation for the remaining two years). Each scholarship has an additional budget for travel, equipment/consumables and training to support your research. KESS II PhD Scholarship holders do not pay fees.

Length: Full-time for 3 years. (Theses must be submitted 6 months after the funded three year study period.)

Training: The achievement of a Postgraduate Skills Development Award (PSDA) is compulsory for each KESS II scholar (The PSDA is based on a 60 credit award, which is an additional award to the PhD).

Eligibility: To be eligible to apply for a KESS II award, you must be resident, upon starting the scholarship, in the Convergence Area of Wales and you must be able to take paid employment in the Convergence area on completion of the scholarship.

The Convergence Area means the following counties of Wales:

Isle of Anglesey
Neath Port Talbot
Rhondda Cynon Taff

For further student eligibility criteria related to the individual projects, please view the details of the individual project above.

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr Paul Robson at or 01970 823091

Address for applications:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Recruitment & Admissions
Student Welcome Centre
Aberystwyth University
SY23 3FB

Quote Reference AU30018

Closing date for applications – Closed