Professor Steven J.R. Underhill

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Professor Steven J.R. Underhill


Teaching areas

  • Pacific horticulture
  • Tropical postharvest handling technologies
  • Pacific Food Security
  • Horticultural supply chains in development countries
  • Poverty alleviation and livelihood development
  • Small-holder farming systems in developing countries
  • Plant stress physiology
  • Sapindaceae fruits


Professor Steven Underhill specialises in subtropical and tropical postharvest horticulture systems in developing countries, based on poverty alleviation and livelihood development outcomes.

His current research program focuses on the South Pacific (Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Kiribati) where he works with smallholder farmers to improve their postharvest handling and quality management systems. Working closely with colleagues at the Fiji National University, the University of the South Pacific, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and the World Vegetable Centre, Taiwan, much of his research is conducted in the Pacific.

Ongoing research covers a diversity of research topics from sensor-based postharvest handling assessments, postharvest infrared thermal imagery, smallholder farm postharvest capacity building, through to dwarfing-orientated genetic research in breadfruit. All collectively orientated towards supply chain development in transitional economies and wider food security/poverty alleviation benefits.

In addition to his part-time appointment at USC, Prof Underhill also holds a Principal Research Fellow at The University of Queensland’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation.

In 2010, he was awarded an Australian Day medal for services to Queensland Primary Industry. He is currently a member of:

  • International technical advisory team - Food Loss & Waste Protocol (FLW Protocol)
  • International Society for Horticultural Science commission – Quality and Postharvest Horticulture
  • International Society for Horticultural Science working group – Litchi, longan and other sapindaceae fruits

USC publications (in the last 2 years)

  • Kumar, S. and Underhill, S.J.R. (2017). Importance of historical review of horticulture in Fiji. Journal of South Pacific Agriculture. (in press. DOI Pending). 
  • Underhill, S.J.R (2017) A practical guide to better postharvest handling for Samoan smallholder farmers. Book. University of the Sunshine Coast, Qld. 76pp.  
  • Underhill, S.J.R and Singh-Peterson, L (2017) Aligning community development objectives in Tonga with critical non-communicable disease remediation. Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Tropics and Subtropics (accepted March 2017. DOI Pending). 
  • Underhill, S.J.R., Zhou, Y., and Kumar, S. (2017) Infrared Thermal Imaging: A Practical Educational Tool to Improve Smallholder Farmer Postharvest Practice in the Fiji - short communications. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension. 
  • Kumar, S. and Underhill, S.J.R. (2016). A preliminary assessment of tomato fruit susceptibility to in-transit damage in Fiji. Acta Horticulturae. 1120, 423-428.  
  • Sing-Peterson, L., Lieske, S., Keys, N., and Underhill, S.J.R (2016) Food security, remoteness and consolidation of supermarket distribution centres: factors contributing to food pricing inequalities across Queensland, Australia. Australian Geographer: 47(1):  89-102. 
  • Singh-Peterson, L. and Underhill, S.J.R. (2016) A multi-scalar, mixed methods framework for assessing rural communities' capacity for resilience, adaptation and transformation. Journal of the Community Development. 48(1): 124-140.  
  • Zhou, Y. and Underhill, S.J.R (2016) Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis): gibberellin 2-oxidase genes in stem elongation and abiotic stress response. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry. 98:81-88.

Research grants

Since joining USC in July 2010, Prof Underhill has been progressively developing an international portfolio of research projects.

Project name Investigators Funding body Year Focus
ACIAR SRA (Hort) 2014/090 - Supporting a diverse and sustainable fruit industry in Tonga. S. Underhill  ACIAR 2014 - 2015 Establishing a diverse but sustainable domestic fruit industry in Tonga is critical in terms of supporting the Tongan Government’s efforts to address the non-communicable disease crisis, improve food security capacity and build greater economic resilience in the agricultural sector through product diversification. Research is being undertaken at the community and village level to identify strategies and priorities for enhanced fruit production in Tonga.
UN-FAO (2015) - Postharvest losses and food safety risks in Samoa's fruit and vegetable chains S. Underhill United Nations-FAO 2015 This project seeks to quantify postharvest losses in Samoa based on systematic postharvest supply chain analysis. This project links to a wider effort by FAO to improve food security in the country through evidence –based targeted interventions.
ACIAR PARDI project – 2011.03 - Developing an integrated participatory guarantee scheme in the Pacific Islands in support of sustainable production of high-value vegetable crops J. Carter and S. Underhill Based on a partnership between Sunshine Coast University, AVRDC–world vegetable Centre (Taiwan), Fiji National University, MPI Fiji Government and MAL Solomon Island’s Government. ACIAR A$585,000 Jan 2012 – June 2015 This project aims to develop a series of pilot-level integrated participatory guarantee systems (PGS) as a strategy to better link vegetable growers in Fiji (Sigatoka) and the Solomon Islands to high-value domestic markets. Given the need to concurrently address some identified key supply chain constraints, the project team will also develop postharvest quality management systems as well as seek to address issues of seed and seedling availability.
PARDI – Pacific Agribusiness research for development S. Underhill ACIAR A$9.99M Jan 2010 – June 2015 Through a concurrent part time appointment with the University of Queensland, I also lead a large ACIAR funded project working on agribusiness and supply chain development in the Pacific. USC is a core partner in this project.
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