With the chair group Farming Systems Ecology at Wageningen Campus we have a PhD position:

Regional approach to the design of sustainable farming


The Farming Systems Ecology group focuses on the analysis and design of exemplar sustainable farming systems and foodscapes, that deliver multiple benefits to humankind, using natural processes as building blocks. We uniquely combine a strong platform of simulation models with hands-on, empirical assessments of outstanding examples of sustainable multifunctional farms and landscapes in all continents. Our multi-disciplinary team includes expertise in systems analysis, modelling, agro-ecology, agronomy, co-innovation, policy formation and immersive education.

Devenish is a farming and food company, delivering sustainable and innovative nutritional products and solutions for the feed industry, the food industry and for human health.

This PhD project is part of the EU2020 project HeartLand (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Rural development: Training network for LAND management), an Innovative Training Network of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.


Ruminants are increasingly in the spotlight because of their impact on the environment and human health. Ruminant farming has been associated with land use change (especially deforestation), greenhouse gas emissions, pollution of soils and water, biodiversity loss, and noncommunicable diseases. Grazing ruminants, however, can also have positive contributions. Ruminants not only convert biomass unsuitable for direct human consumption into valuable food; in addition, grazing systems can also provide a wide range of other ecosystem services, such as enhancing biodiversity, increasing carbon sequestration, and water regulation. Therefore, there is a need to re-think contemporary livestock farming system so that they contribute to, rather than compromise, healthy farms, healthy people and a healthy planet. The diversity of farm types and managements will require the formulation of differentiated transition pathways in line with societal demands.

The EU HeartLand project aims to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative PhD graduates to investigate how to create economically and environmentally sustainable livestock products of enhanced nutritional value through pasture-based production systems. HeartLand will explore and integrate the relationships between soil, sward, animal, farm management, environment and ultimately human health. HeartLand will be recruiting 5 PhD candidates to develop their projects in the domains of soil biology, grassland sciences and sward composition, animal nutrition and performance, farming systems and modelling, and environmental sciences.

This PhD project corresponds to the domain Functional Land Management: managing the supply and demand for multifunctional ruminant farming. The project will be developed at the Farming Systems Ecology group of Wageningen University & Research (the Netherlands) in the first year and at Devenish Nutrition (Ireland) the subsequent three years.



A PhD candidate to explore at a regional scale the consequences of changing farm managements to deliver a wider range of goods and services to society. Considering the diverse farming systems and diverse societal contexts within Ireland, this research project will test to which extent redesigned farming system can be replicated to meet sustainability targets for a region. The research will have the aim to i) assess the sustainability objectives within an Irish context, including biophysical and economic aspects, as perceived by different stakeholders using complementary approaches; ii) determine the regional supply (current and potential) of soil functions/ecosystem services in a region; iii) assess heterogeneity of farming systems; and iv) design transition pathways from contemporary farming systems to regions that deliver goods and services in line with societal demands.

This research project will involve desk work, such as reviewing literature, creating and managing databases, performing statistical analysis and modelling economic and environmental performance of farming systems at a regional level. Participatory approaches with relevant stakeholders will also take place.



For this interdisciplinary project, we are looking for an enthusiastic result-driven person with an appropriate degree in animal or environmental sciences, or in biology or ecology, and an interest to work with other agricultural disciplines. You have excellent command of the English language, and you communicate efficiently and excel in problem solving. You have experience in modelling, designing and executing experiments and are familiar with data management. You are acquainted with effective and creative visualisation of results. In addition, you are a team-player and are highly effective in time and project planning. Proven knowledge and interest in modelling (with Microsoft Visual Studio, GAMS, R or similar) is desirable.

Prerequisites for application subject to the Innovative Training Network of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions:

  • You have been living and working/studying outside the Netherlands before 1st March 2018
  • Be available and willing to travel



  • A challenging job for a period of 4 years (12 months at Farming Systems Ecology group with an extension of 36 months at Devenish Nutrition after successful evaluation).
  • A job in an international setting with varied work and plenty of opportunities for personal development in a pleasant and open working environment.
  • The gross salary will be of € 2,325 per month
  • Good training and education opportunities
  • Expected starting date: 1st September 2019



For questions about this vacancy you can contact dr. Raimon Ripoll Bosch (Mail: raimon.ripollbosch@wur.nl; tel: +31 (0)317-481909) or Dr. Jean Kennedy (Mail: jean.kennedy@Devenish.com).


You can apply until (and including) May 15th 2019. Upload your CV and a short motivation letter via the website of Wageningen University & Research; https://www.wur.nl/en/Jobs.htm

Please don’t email directly to the persons mentioned above.

Closing date 15 May 2019 at 5:00 pm

Devenish Nutrition Ltd is an Equal Opportunities Employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community