Filter by surname: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ | By department: Staff  Students  | Show all

PhD Research: Variations on a Potato: Surplus and the Production of Value in Agri-Food Supply Chains

Patrick Gould

Postgraduate student

Patrick graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2012 with a First Class degree in BA (Hons) Geography. Facing the daunting prospects of life in the 'real world', he continued his studies part-time at the University of Manchester whilst working at a supermarket full-time.

Patrick joined the Sustainable Consumption Institute's doctoral programme in 2014 where he is broadly investigating the links between supermarkets, legitimation and taste, developing his research interests in: sustainable consumption and production, globalisation and uneven development, political economy and commodification/decommodification. 

Trends of food production, distribution and consumption have shifted dramatically over the last three decades. Globalised supply chains, financialised markets, intensified production and technological changes have established year-round abundance of fresh produce as a common feature of supermarket aisles.

The social, environmental, political and economic consequences and impacts of these developments have gained significant interest in that time. Indeed, the production, distribution and consumption of food is recognised as one of the major global issues with nearly half of food produced not feeding humans, the richest quarter of the world population consuming three quarters of global energy and 12.5% of the global population considered to be chronically undernourished.

Despite much policy, research and industry action directed towards transitioning to sustainable food production and consumption, the issues of food security and diversity still require further research and intervention.

Using the UK potato supply chain as a case study, how the surpluses, by-products and excesses of production are being used and managed will be investigated.  That is, how are contemporary potato producers, processors and suppliers reconfiguring or diversifying their production practices in light of increased risks, obligations and opportunities?

Through interviews with industry experts, archival research and documentary evidence, this research will map the hitherto unexplored routes of the potato across its never-ending life cycle. Providing an alternative view to the widespread belief in the wastefulness of contemporary food supply chains, it will focus on the unusual, ingenious and surprising methods that people have invented to reuse surpluses and by-products, maximising the value of a commodity across markets.

In a political, economic and environmental climate dictated by scarcity, this research turns the focus of attention on abundance. This comes as excess, surplus, abundance, waste and overproduction gains increasing salience in advanced economies suffering from economic stagnation, highlighted by policies across the European Union such as Horizon 2020 and discussions on the circular economy. With innovation and resource re-use seen as key to ensuring long-term environmental and food security, the case of the UK potato supply chain provides some answers and insights into the viability and future success of such proposals.

Supervisors: David Evans and Alan Warde

Selected documents