Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People (H3)

Principal Investigator: Professor Peter Jackson, co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Food, University of Sheffield
Project website: H3 project
Overview: H3 video

An Introduction to the H3 Project

Bringing together world-class researchers from Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cambridge and City universities, this project seeks to transform the UK food system ‘from the ground up.’

It will use an integrated programme of interdisciplinary research on healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people (H3).

The project will:

  • evaluate and refine regenerative agriculture measures to protect and restore soil health
  • use innovative methods such as hydroponics and biofortification
  • consider consumer demand, public acceptability and affordability.

The H3 Consortium addresses the links between food production and consumption and takes a whole systems approach to identify paths towards a transformed UK food system. It will deliver this via a series of interventions:

  • on farm
  • in food manufacturing, distribution and retail
  • in terms of the health implications and inequalities associated with food consumption in UK homes and communities.

The proposed research addresses a range of UK government policy drivers, including:

  • diet-related ill health
  • the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • biodiversity
  • soil health and water quality
  • rebuilding trust in the food system
  • promoting clean growth
  • supporting the translation of scientific research and new technologies for the benefit of the UK economy and society.

Our approach is interdisciplinary, combining world-class soil and plant scientists, health researchers, economists and social scientists. The research team have many years’ experience of working together, leading interdisciplinary research centres, co-supervising PhD students and collaborating on numerous research projects.

We take an integrated approach to the agri-food system, recognising its complexity and addressing the governance challenges that arise from the rapidly changing regulatory landscape.

Work packages

Our proposed research involves six interconnected work packages.

The first advances novel growing technologies via fundamental research into agricultural practices. These practices have the potential to transform the quality of food we grow while minimising its environmental impact.

The second aims to combine hydroponic and conventional soil-based agriculture. This will create a linked network of hybrid demonstrator farms in peri-urban areas between cities and rural spaces, which will encourage improvements in dietary health and environmental sustainability.

The third extends these ideas to the landscape scale, evaluating the benefits of regenerative agriculture in terms of reduced fertiliser and pesticide use and increased food quality.

The fourth addresses the key public health challenges of micro-nutrient deficiency through the application of state of the art methods of biofortification. It looks at how these methods can enhance the nutritional value of foods that are already part of established UK diets.

The fifth seeks to increase the consumption of fibre with its associated health and sustainability benefits, based on the lessons we learnt from the Danish wholegrain partnership.

The sixth aims to increase food system resilience to economic, health and environmental shocks through collaborative research with retailers and consumers.


Three crosscutting themes ensure system-wide integration across the work packages.

The first focuses on the application of integrative methods such as life cycle assessment (LCA) and scenario-building approaches to assess the environmental, social and economic impact of different interventions and policy options.

The second focuses on issues of consumer demand, public acceptability and affordability.

The third ensures that a wide range of stakeholders from government, business and civil society are involved throughout the programme. It has a strong emphasis on knowledge exchange and impact within and beyond the five-year funding period.

Professors Peter Jackson and Duncan Cameron, who direct the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield, lead the H3 Consortium.