(UK)

A leading Professor of Astrophysics is applying technologies used in the study of outer space to improve food security.

Professor Sarah Bridle – based at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester – is diversifying her research to tackle issues relating to food security and climate change.

“Food contributes over 20% of greenhouse gas emissions and will likely be the main way most people experience climate change. As a planet, we need to produce safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way without depleting natural resources, and ensure the accessibility and resilience of food supply,” said Professor Bridle.

The academic insists these challenges can be overcome “by bringing access and expertise from across multiple disciplines such as big data and precision instrumentation expertise from fundamental research in astro, particle and nuclear physics.”

Professor Bridle is currently observing wheat fields for “signs of weed infestation” with the same tools she uses to analyse galaxies.

“I see strong parallels between estimating the distance to galaxies, crucial to measuring the nature of dark energy, and quantifying the level of disease in a crop, crucial to timely intervention to increase crop yield.”

She added: “I’m still passionate about astronomy but as I started to think more about the future of our planet, I decided to diversify my research. I’ve been amazed at how many of the skills I developed from doing astronomy research are transferrable. This is a fantastic opportunity to encourage more people to think about how their expertise can be transferred, and to make a contribution to food research and industry.”