The mapping of the entire food supply chain from primary production, processing, logistics and regional and international trade to consumers and food disposal in research and teaching is a unique selling point of the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU). The scientific and technical expertise in agricultural sciences, food sciences and food technology, together with the expertise in economic and social sciences in this area, as well as waste management, form a unique combination in Austria.

These biological fundamentals in the area of crop science will be researched because of their importance in the further development of primary agricultural production in the context of economic, social and ecological changes and challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, extreme events, soil degradation and loss of biodiversity as well as food security. These include molecular biology and physiology of both model plants and crops, rhizosphere research, (molecular) plant-pathogen interactions, stress research (biotic and abiotic), research of resistance and marker-assisted breeding including genome editing, agrometabolomics, agrobiodiversity, and agrometeorology, as well as regional water management and agrohydrology.

The priority topics in the livestock sciences are genomic selection of livestock, feed production and technologies, and assessment of animal welfare and health. The main topics in system-oriented organic agriculture are the sustainable development of soil-plant systems, social discourse on the transformation of the agricultural and food system and the importance of local knowledge in the preservation of biodiversity (ethnobotany). In 2021, a professorship in development research will be established with a focus on the analysis of socio-ecological systems in the Global South, as well as food security and learning for sustainability; this chair will be of considerable importance for international participatory networking. Further research priorities with a systemic approach include sustainable aquaculture, sustainability assessment of agricultural production systems and residue recycling.

Projects in the field of digitisation deal with the use of information technology, sensor-based monitoring (e.g. automated phenotyping) and remote sensing (remote sensing and geographic information for small to large-scale agricultural systems) in agricultural research, especially in agricultural engineering (agricultural systems engineering, robotics).

Key topics in food science include authenticity of food, food safety and food hygiene as well as food processing, quality and market acceptance. Basic research and the development of modern analytics are especially significant in the areas of food physics, food chemistry and food microbiology, with high-performance analysis being used to check for food authenticity, mycotoxins, metabolic metabolites and food allergens. In addition, the interaction between food and the human or animal organism is examined (microbiome research, food intolerance, antibiotic resistance).

Food technology at BOKU focuses on the processing and preservation of food, market segment-oriented food production and value-adding in ancillary aspects of food production, including avoiding food waste. Aspects of process engineering and sustainable process technologies, among others, are of particular importance. In the areas of sensory and consumer science, observational, psychophysical and attitude test methods are being developed to better understand and predict food acceptance and consumer behaviour.

In the economic and social sciences, the focus is on analysing the effects of legal, economic and social frameworks on primary agricultural production and the food sector as a whole; analysing decision-making behaviour among producers and consumers as well as business and economic performance processes in farming. Topics include European agricultural policy, agricultural markets and trade, farm production and the environment, business strategies and succession planning in farms, the economic and ecological efficiency of alternative forms of agricultural management, land use, and social attitudes to agricultural and environmental products; as well as the optimization of irrigation, harm avoidance and adaptation strategies in the context of climate change, as well as scarcity of resources.

In addition, research is carried out into consumer behaviour regarding food products with specific qualities (e.g. regional, local, organic), perceptions towards markets and food labelling (e.g. organic, GMO-free, indication of origin) by consumers as well as innovation in and organization of the entire food value chain.

Cross-linking of departments researching in this field is carried out by the following graduate schools (i) Agrigenomics, (ii) Transition to Sustainability (T2S) and (iii) Biomolecular Technology of Proteins (BioToP), Centre for Agricultural Sciences and Centre for Bioeconomy as well as the Cluster for Development Research (CDR) and the Consumer Sciences Initiative. A graduate school in smart farming and forestry is being planned.

Research projects in this field are supported by both national and European sponsors. The COMET-K1 Competence Centre FFoQSI conducts research with significant participation from BOKU into the entire plant and animal value chain, and the Competence Centre D4Dairy conducts research along the milk production value chain. Current and planned large projects include the Christian Doppler Laboratory and the Horizon 2020 projects (e.g. ERC, EIP-Agro) Other important sponsors include FWF, WWTF, and FFG (ERA-NET, etc.), as well as public bodies and the industry. One substantial project planned by the FWF is the SFB submission on the use of molecular plant biology to combat multiple stress factors. As part of Horizon Europe, submissions will be advanced in Pillar 2 and in Cluster 6 (Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment).