Agricultural food systems | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Agricultural food systems

Nationals Working In Plantation
Indoor Fruit N Veg Market With People In Background
Luscious Field in Pacific Islands

Our research on subtropical and tropical postharvest horticulture systems in the Pacific centres on developing supply chains for wider food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihood development outcomes.

Key researcher: Professor Steven Underhill

Recent research projects

Tree planing workshop in the field
Community orchard
Enhanced fruit systems for Tonga and Samoa (Phase 2): Community based citrus production 

2021 - 2024


This ACIAR funded project aims to increase domestic citrus production in Tonga and Samoa in support of pro-health outcomes and wider community development impacts. Tonga and Samoa have some of the highest rates of obesity in the world, with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) the leading cause of mortality.

There is a critical need to increase the availability of locally-grown, affordable, healthy and safe fresh fruits and vegetables. In Tonga, established citrus orchards will be translated into sustainable, resilient citrus value chains supporting pro-health outcomes and creating new business enterprise opportunities for women and rural communities. In Samoa, a series of targeted interventions to unlock local citrus industry profitability and expand domestic fruit availability will be implemented. This project involves research and development in smallholder farmer citrus agronomy, evaluation of cyclone risk management strategies, nursery-based scale out, locally adapted postharvest technologies, pro-women fruit value-added enterprise development, community based healthy eating garden, consumer purchasing behaviour and diet preference, and smallholder farmer and vendor and institutional capacity building.

Project team: Prof Steven Underhill (CI), A/Prof John Chapman, Dr Sarah Burkhart, Dr Dana Craven, Ms Tara McKenzie, Dr Yuchan Zhou, and researchers from the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa, Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovation, The University of Queensland, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Samoa, Fiji National University and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Funding: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research $1.2M

Ono Island Gardens
Food garden, Ono Island, Fiji
Understanding the links between climate hazards, food systems and nutrition in rural communities of the Fiji Islands



Communities across the Pacific are being challenged by the impacts of climate change, including on food security. A priority goal for the region is to improve dietary quality and reduce non-communicable diseases.

This project focused on exploring the links between climate hazards, food systems and diets in remote coastal villages of Fiji. Livelihood transitions and climate hazards explain why households have become less reliant on local fisheries and agriculture for their dietary needs. Most households routinely consume locally-sourced food items from only four food groups. In addition, diets are shifting and now include significant quantities of energy-dense processed (imported) foods with low nutritional value.

The study highlights the importance of increasing availability of fruits and vegetables, mainly through local production, and diversifying sustainable sources of animal protein as strategies to increase diet quality. The methodology developed for this project has the potential to be replicated to support initiatives aimed at promoting the sustainable transformation of food systems, food and nutrition security, and human health.

Author: Daniela Medina Hidalgo

Daniela Medina Hidalgo is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Postgraduate Scholarship.

Medina Hidalgo, D., Witten, I., Nunn, P. D., Burkhart, S., Bogard, J. R., Beazley, H., & Herrero, M. (2020). Sustaining healthy diets in times of change: linking climate hazards, food systems and nutrition security in rural communities of the Fiji Islands. Regional Environmental Change, 20(3), 73.