Head of the Innovation Farm,
National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in Cambridge
Dr Lydia Smith joined NIAB in 1997 and initially had a broad remit to expand the research base at NIAB. She gradually built up, then led the Novel and Non Food Crops area, working closely with Steven Bentley. She is a plant ecologist by training, with particular interest in reclamation of damaged or contaminated land to agricultural or amenity use, Dr Smith has extensive experience in plant microbial interactions and in the application of ecological principles to the farmed environment. Her experience naturally spans academic and commercial research in the agricultural crop sector, including six years at the University of East London working closely with the British Coal Board Open Cast Executive and local councils.
Lydia has a particular interest in diversification and novel use of crop species and has sought to foster interaction with both academics and business within the East of England, e.g. through the Cambridge Partnership of Plant Scientists. It became clear, following specialisation in research relating to novel and non food crops, that farmers and stakeholders needed a source of information to understand the botany and agronomy of new crop species or changed crop use. The many innovative research programmes in both NIAB and elsewhere often lacked an easy pipeline for efficient discussion with potential users and customers. In answer to this need, Lydia is now running a new knowledge exchange/showcasing facility; Innovation Farm, to provide a forum for research and innovation providers to interact more directly with such groups and to engage with undergraduates in the longer term.
Her first degree is in Botany from the University of Sheffield, her MSc, at Reading University and finally a PhD from the University of East London. She spent postdoctoral periods at UEA and Luton University. She then lectured in soil and environmental science at the University of Luton and in reclamation science on MSc. courses at the University of East London.