Agricultural, Environmental and Food Economics


Our applied economic research uses both theoretical and empirical approaches to address important questions and policy issues regarding the global food chain, including food production and consumption and the links to human diet, nutrition and health. Our research considers the efficiency of sustainable agricultural and food production, and food security. Students in the environmental, ecological and resource economics research cluster apply economic theories and methodologies to address a broad range of issues relating to the intersection of people and the natural environment. Examples include ecological-economic modelling of invasive species; spatial-temporal modelling of resource extraction; economics of climate change; non-market evaluation using stated preference methods; and managing marine and terrestrial protected areas.

PhD Admissions Lead - Dr Elena Millan ElenaAE3
DPhil in Management Studies (Marketing), Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Dr Elena Millan is a Lecturer in Consumer Research and Marketing and the module convenor of a number of undergraduate and post-graduate modules within the Department of Applied Economics and Marketing, based in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development.

Prior to joining the University of Reading, she held academic posts as Lecturer in Marketing at the Universities of Essex and Surrey, and was Statistics Tutor and Research Officer at the University of Oxford, as well as Researcher at the College of Europe, Bruges, in Belgium.

Elena’s expertise and current research focuses on consumer behaviour, digital marketing, luxury brands, advertising, and retail and is currently supervising topical research across the School at undergraduate, Master’s and PhD level.

Drawing from different theoretical and interdisciplinary perspectives, Elena welcomes prospective PhD applications from strongly motived candidates who have interest in: digital marketing, brand engagement and experiences on social media, the role of culture in shaping consumer behaviour and, also, consumer psychology and behaviours across diverse product categories. She is also happy to supervise within the areas of advertising and retail marketing.


PhD profile - George Vittis

Research Title:George Vittis
PhD in Agricultural Economics

Research Description:
I am currently researching the way through which livestock production can future proof sustainably the Less Favoured Areas (LFA's) of England.

My research involves qualitative and quantitative analysis. The quantitative part includes handling a dataset derived by the Farm Business Survey. The aims of this study are answered by employing Linear Programming modelling which attempts to find the optimum spatial allocation of livestock production in LFA's.

The current economic and political consensus creates new challenges for the economies. Agriculture, as part of the primary sector, is affected by these challenges; hence new policies should be designed in order to maintain environmental quality, economic wealth and social robustness.

Career Aspirations:
I look forward to expanding my experience in Sustainable Spatial Planning as well as sharpening any relevant skills on regional development and sustainability. My dream is to become part of a policy-making group which designs sustainable spatial development.

In my future career I would like to specialise in integrating mathematical models to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Land use planning.

This qualification will help me start an academic career for expanding my research on Spatial planning. In addition, this research will help me get a thorough understanding of how policy making for rural areas has worked in the past and how it is designed nowadays in the UK.

Associated/Relevant Research Groups/Centres:

My PhD was awarded scholarship from the University of Reading and the Edith Mary Gayton fund

Simon Mortimer and Yiorgos Gadanakis

Expected Completion Date:
October 2018

Country of Origin:

Work experience:
I have participated in a large archaeological project run by the Greek Ministry of Culture. In this project I had the role of Assistant Landscaper where my main activities included design of topographic plots and maps using of geographic as well as designing software (GIS, Autocad), preparation of technical reports regarding findings and progress of work, and collaborative meetings with other groups of the project (engineers, archaeologists ect). Furthermore, I have assisted the teaching process of the "Introduction to management" module at the University of Reading.

This particular placement has helped me get a deeper understanding of how drastically Geography interacts with economic, social or environmental aspects and shapes their spatial allocation.

Why did you choose Reading?
University of Reading is one of the leading universities in the world especially for studies relating to Agricultural development. This in turn meant that my university is a large multicultural and innovative organisation which looks forward to enhancing knowledge by developing constantly. Taking part in a PhD research is a really interesting as well as challenging process. I would definitely recommend a PhD to prospect students as a process of academic development.

During my study I have enjoyed the ability to decide about taking certain research paths according to my academic interests.


Yihong Ding (small image)

PhD Profile- Yihong Ding

Research title:

'The study of adaptive behaviour for farmers under climate risk'

Research Description:

In recent years climate change has had increasing effects to agriculture, including economic losses, a threat to national food security, and an increase on the vulnerability of farmers who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Therefore, my research looks into how rural households are adapting to the effects of climate change, and how they can reduce the risks that it brings.

Throughout my research I will analyse farmers' decision-making process about whether and how to adopt strategies when they face extreme climate events, as well as the effectiveness of the measures that they take, and how policy makers can more efficiently support them to alleviate the risk of economic loss.

I have enjoyed completing a detailed analysis of farmers' behaviours, and designing policy suggestions which could help to improve their well-being.

Career Aspirations:

In the future I wish to pursue a career within academia, in which I plan to work within a university research institute. During my Masters in Agricultural Economics, I completed a survey about rural areas in China, and found that even if farmers work hard all year round their incomes remain very low. This is where my huge interest in poverty alleviation began, in which I hope to specialise in agricultural economics in the future to contribute to helping reduce poverty for farmers.

Studying for a PhD has allowed me to expand my knowledge surrounding qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis, which will allow me to complete normative studies in the future. Carrying out research in this area will enable me to learn more about farmers' behaviours under risk, which has been proved to have a correlation with poverty.

Expected Completion Date:

September 2021


Professor Elizabeth Robinson and Professor Kelvin Balcombe


University of Reading/China Scholarship Council PhD funding

Country of Origin:


Why did you choose Reading?

I chose Reading as it is 6th in the world and first in the UK for Agriculture and Forestry, as well as the School of Agriculture, Policy and Developments reputation for its expertise in the field of behavioural economics. Due to this expertise and high ranking I believe that I can gain a greater insight into my research topic and learn new methods of Agricultural Economics.

Since starting my research, the support and guidance I have received has been extremely helpful in ensuring I manage my time effectively. Not only has this made me work more efficiently but also helped manage stress levels.


PhD Profile for Niall O’Leary NiallAE1

Research title:

Farmer attributes associated with farm profitability - a study of dairy farms in Great Britain

Research description:

My research took place within the United Kingdom with 140 dairy farmers. Two surveys measuring attitudes and personality attributes and their association with farm financial performance, were completed and assessed. In addition, a large literature review also took place as part of my research.

Career aspirations:

PhD student Niall O'Leary, grew up on a dairy farm and worked closely with his father which gave him a huge interest and personal opinions into how a farm should, and should not be run, as well as creating a passion in him to pursue an agricultural career.

"I wanted to be able to turn to my father and say 'I told you so' having completed my research, which I assumed would substantiate my opinions. For the most part, he was of course right all along" Said Niall.

"My research, which assessed the attributes of successful farming, found a very strong relationship between farm profitability and how detail conscious the farm manager is, which has lead me to want to work with farmers and farmer organisations to increase the awareness of this important driver in farm profitability."

Looking to the future, Niall continued: "I would like to continue to work in research and contribute to the advancement of dairy farming. Completing my doctorate enabled me to secure a post-doctoral research position with the Irish Agricultural and Food Development Authority, in Teagasc, in which the connections, friends and experience I gained when studying at Reading will continue to be of great value to me.

Completion date:

March 2017


Richard Bennett and Richard Tranter


Self-funding and the University of Reading (employee 2011-2014)

Country of origin:


Why did you choose Reading?

Before studying at Reading, I worked as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership associate with Promar International and the University of Reading, for three years. Due to the huge amount of support given by Promar I was able to start my thesis part time. I believe that my exposure to a corporate environment while working and studying at the University of Reading provided me with an invaluable insight, due to the regular contrasts in culture and methods.

I would highly recommend a PhD to other students who want to specialise in a particular area and to be at the fore front of that field. However, perseverance is definitely the key as you will be charting new territory, and facing many challenges that come with doing something that no one else has done before to the high standard of a doctorate.

Throughout my time at Reading, I enjoyed learning and attending courses, and discussions with colleagues, as well as the sense of achievement after completing my doctorate.


PhD Profile for Ogbonne Chinonso EzeChinonso Eze

Research title:

'Natural Resource Degradation and Agricultural Production in Oil Polluted Environments.'

Research description:

The goal of my thesis is to contribute to the long-term sustainability and productivity of agriculture and the livelihoods of those dependent on the sector. The overarching aim is to provide Nigeria's policy makers with information on the costs imposed by oil spills on the agricultural sector, to enable them to better understand the economic and livelihood trade-offs between the oil and agriculture sector. Therefore, this would then allow them to make better informed policies, concerning two sectors that are both vital to the country's economic growth and developments. To achieve this, I will address the extent to which oil spills in Nigeria damage agriculture and agriculture-based livelihoods.

My research will focus on Nigeria's Niger Delta region, from which a random sample of farmers will be selected, who will initially be characterised according to their location relative to previous oil spills. Data will be gathered from in-depth qualitative and quantitative interviews with these farmers. The research will adopt spatial modelling and the use or relevant economic theories to answer research questions and achieve the overarching aim.

Career aspirations:

In the future I hope to continue working in the field of academia and work towards a tenured professorship, within an organisation that provides me with the opportunity to develop myself, as well as use my skills and contribute directly to its growth and productivity through selfless, committed and dedicated services. I am keen to make an impact on the generations after me through lecturing and supervising both undergraduates and postgraduates, publications, and consultancy.

In addition, to this I am keen to build strong links with key Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's), and policy makers who have an interest in the environmental and agricultural sectors. In which I hope to be a recognised leader in Nigeria, providing policy makers with rigorous economic analysis on environmental issues directly relevant to livelihoods and the economy.

I have an interest in spatial modelling and how it can be applied to achieve research objectives. My interest in this field began whilst studying for my Masters' degree in Agricultural Economics, in which I completed my thesis entitled: 'A spatial Analysis of Oil Pollution Externalities in Nigeria and its Impact on Agriculture'. Throughout this time, I greatly enjoyed completing a different type of research and learning about Spatial Modelling and how I could apply it to my research objectives.

Completion date:

September 2021


Professor Elizabeth Robinson, and Dr Giacomo Zanello


Commonwealth Scholarship Commission

Country of origin:


Why did you choose Reading?

I chose to study my PhD at Reading as this is where I previously completed a Masters' degree, in which I was exposed to a multicultural environment, with supportive lecturers that are experts in their field. I have also been able to complete the Reading Experience and Development (RED) Award, which has enabled me to affect lives in and around the community through volunteering schemes and student societies.

The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development is currently 6th in the world for Agriculture and Forestry and is repeatedly ranked as the UK's top university for impact in Agricultural Sciences research, which was a huge draw when looking for universities to complete my studies at.

I would definitely recommend studying for a PhD to other students, as although it can be challenging it has already provided me with many new transferrable and problem-solving skills, which will be vital in my later career.

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