Master Research Unit Agroecology and Food Systems for the MSc Environment and Natural Resources
Would you like to contribute to sustainable changes in our food system? If so, the Agroecology and Food Systems specialisation might well be for you, allowing you to develop new solutions "from field to plate".
The food system is facing enormous challenges. Inequalities, environmental degradation, scarcity and overabundance characterise the conventional system. Alternative forms of food production and distribution are urgently needed. In the Agroecology and Food Systems specialisation, you will come to know different approaches to sustainable food production and nutrition. The focus is on approaches from agroecology, regional value chains and fair trade relationships. The close interactions between humans and the environment are an integral part of the course. With the research groups of the ZHAW, and thanks to the collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), you have a wide range of specialisation options to choose from.
As a Master of Science ZFH in Environment and Natural Resources specialising in Agroecology and Food Systems...
- you know the economic, social and political relationships that influence the global and Swiss food systems.
- you develop alternative concepts for sustainable agriculture based on agroecological principles.
- you identify sustainability conflicts within the food value chain and design solutions regarding sustainable production methods and supply chains.
- you devise innovative strategies to promote sustainable nutrition.
"I want to contribute to the sustainable development of Switzerland's rural regions. In my current job, I benefit from the in-depth knowledge gained from my studies and a valuable network."
In this specialisation, you will get to know different approaches for sustainable food production and nutrition. The focus is on approaches to agroecology, regional value chains and fair trade relationships.
You will consider the following questions throughout the course:
- What potential does the production and marketing of new crops like quinoa have in Switzerland?
- What new approaches exist as an alternative to today's agriculture and what are the risks?
- How can agriculture in mountain areas and in cities, keyword urban agriculture, contribute to sustainable development?
- How can the sustainability of food be assessed, for example with life cycle assessments?
- How can consumers be motivated to make more sustainable consumption decisions?
We were also concerned with these questions during the international summer school on the subject of agrobiodiversity:
In the Master's Studio, you specialise in sustainable value chains or in consumption, in different areas of agriculture, rural development or tourism. You benefit from our network in industry and research, and have the opportunity to carry out projects abroad with industry partners in the field.
As part of the Master's thesis, you develop your ideas and concepts for solving scientific challenges. This enables you to tackle complex issues independently in your subsequent professional occupation.
Examples from previous Master's theses in the Agroecology and Food Systems specialisation:
- Aline Roth (2020): The impact of the aging generation issue on the cocoa farmer's livelihood in the region Alto Beni, Bolivia
Aline Roth Master's thesis took her to Bolivia, however, by ship! There she conducted numerous interviews with coffee farmers to get to the bottom of the challenges of ageing and to develop solutions.
- Stephan Gysi (2020): Innovation and Diversification through Niche Crops—Potential and Suitability for Switzerland (winner of the SVIAL-Award).
Stefan Gysi went searching for suitable new crops to diversify Swiss agriculture. Perhaps sesame, almonds and peanuts will no longer have to be imported in the future?
- Fabienne Vukotic (2019): Chancen und Hindernisse für eine regionale Lebensmittelversorgung der Stadt Zürich (in German only)
How can a regional food supply be strengthened? In her Master's thesis, Fabienne Vukotic gained a comprehensive insight into the producers' point of view.
The central aspect of your Master's degree is your participation in your chosen research group. This individual specialisation makes up half of the degree programme and gives you in-depth insights into research and development work. In this way, you already build up a professional network during your studies.
"The research group supports us as students and integrates us into the processes of their daily team life. This work experience and the opportunity to plan individual modules with the research groups is what makes the degree so interesting and career-ready."
Jonathan Blank, Graduate Environmental Planning Research Group
- Soil Ecology Research Group
- Horticulture Research Group
- Ecotechnology Research Group
- Phytomedicine Research Group (website in German only)
- Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Research Group
- Department of Crop Sciences (FiBL)
- Department of Soil Sciences (FiBL)
- Department of Livestock Sciences (FiBL)
- Regional Development Research Group
- Tourism and Sustainable Development Research Group
- Environmental Planning Research Group
- Department for International Cooperation (FiBL)
"There are many connecting points in this MRU: from transformation to tourism to production - If you are unsure, write to me. I will be happy to help you."
Roman Grüter, Head of MRU Agroecology and Food Systems