The course, which lasts three years, aims to train researchers of international standing, capable of designing and conducting research in the fields of agri-food and environmental sciences, through the acquisition of knowledge and skills in a multidisciplinary research field focusing on modern agriculture and, more generally, anthropic interactions with the environment.

Advanced classes, taught mainly during the first year of the PhD course,  as well as active research on the thesis topic for all three years, will nuture scientific training in ‘smart’ agriculture, focusing on food quality and security, while aiming at mitigating environmental impact as well as sustainable use and management of natural resources and biodiversity.

The collaboration between the University of Trento with Fondazione Edmund Mach to deliver this unique PhD course brings together complementary skills and state-of-the-art laboratories, with strong connections to the international research community and regional agricultural sectors, as well as integrated natural ecosystems. Thus, C3A represents an ideal experimental environment to study, test scientific hypotheses, and validate approaches, productive models and innovative concepts.

Although there are other initiatives aimed at training researchers in the agri-food sector, this doctorate stands out for its multidisciplinary approach, including theoretical and practical experience in the most up-to-date methods and technologies used today, from field sampling and greenhouse breeding, to genomics, animal behavior and bioinformatics (depending on the courses and PhD topic chosen). In fact, the course aims to train researchers who are able to tackle research topics starting from a comprehensive vision of the problem to be addressed.

The wide and varied courses offered in the prospectus, as well as seminar series and summer schools to be announced, aim to provide the student with the basic knowledge to solve cross-cutting issues, but above all to deepen the specific skills necessary to tackle a doctoral-level research project and beyond.

During the course, the student’s progress will be carefully supervised and monitored. In addition, the student’s career path will be further strengthened by ensuring results are published in English scientific journals, and oral communications and posters will be presented at conferences, conventions, or workshops.

PhD students will be strongly encouraged to carry out part of their research in an academic or industrial research center abroad. The organization of other training activities is also envisaged thanks to numerous existing agreements of the Fondazione Edmund Mach with international research institutions and universities.

Thematic areas of research

  • Management of natural and agricultural capital, preservation of the rural socio-cultural heritage, including mountain agriculture, human-biodiversity coexistence, and increase of the resilience of natural and productive systems to anthropogenic disturbance;
  • Socio-economic studies in support of agri-food and environmental policies and analysis of the evolution of food consumption and their impact on agricultural production practices and production chains;
  • Scientific and technological innovations to support the sustainable development of production processes and the protection of plants, animals, humans and the environment, with particular attention to improving the quality of agro-forestry production, through agronomic and genetic improvement methods advanced (marker-assisted breeding, smart forestry, genome-editing, etc.);
  • Development of advanced biotechnological methods for agriculture, product transformation and environmental protection, including bioinformatics and analysis of ‘-omics’ data, integration of ‘-omics’ technologies and precision farming techniques, and applications to the agro-environmental field of mechatronics, sensor development and remote sensing;
  • Optimization of food preservation and transformation processes, traceability of food and forestry productions, analytical characterization and nutritional enhancement, sensory analysis of food products and study of the social, cognitive and neural bases of consumer choices;
  • Applied climatology, agrometeorology and the study of the interactions between biosphere and climate, with particular attention to the impact of global changes on natural and agricultural ecosystems and on health, eco-hydraulics and hydro-ecology;
  • Modeling of hydrological and biological processes in natural and cultivated soils, and interactions between soil microorganisms, flora and fauna, as well as with various abiotic and chemical factors.
  • Development of advanced techniques for identifying and assessing the impact of contaminants in natural and agricultural systems;
  • Distribution and conservation of biodiversity (genetics, species and ecosystems) through an integrated approach and innovative technologies (remote sensing, biologging, molecular techniques, etc.) including evolutionary, spatial and statistical modelling.

Job opportunities

The PhD course aims to train professionals that are readily employable in national and international job markets in academics and/or in public or private research centers, national and international agencies, industrial R&D, or as freelance consultants. The course will also encourage the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills needed for the creation of innovative start-ups and patents, helping the student to transform an idea into a product, patent or business.

Practical professional development opportunities are envisaged in national and international centres, particularly in the following sectors:

  • Agronomic-environmental / industrial sector: production manager or R&D manager in agri-food companies.
  • National and international agencies: developer of environmental and economic sustainability models or environmental monitoring systems; management and analysis of environmental data; assessment of the socio-economic impact of production practices or environmental interventions.
  • Academics: researcher formulating of relevant scientific questions, experimental design, translation of ideas into practical applications through a multidisciplinary and intersectoral approach to problem solving.
  • Communication and dissemination: science communicator/scientific journalist for interpreting scientific results and transmit their importance to the general public, administrations and policy makers.
  • Freelance innovation management: a consultant capable of developing and implementing innovation.
  • Start-ups: entrepreneurs for developing new business ideas starting from innovative research.
  • Consultancy: problem solving expert or process innovator with the ability to identify problems and solve them
  • Policy making agencies: technical scientific consultant for the development of policies and regulations and for the resolution of conflicts in multiple use resources (industrial, agricultural, tourism, ecosystem functions).
  • Secondary schools: highschool teachers with innovative and interactive teaching methods.