Botany and the Economy


I have been conducting research on the apple industry since 2008 when I started my PhD, and now I also do research on hops and other specialty crops like tomatoes and citrus.

Back in 2011, I began doing research on the relationship between apple trees, processes of commodity development, and the economic aspects of the apple industry. My approach takes the behaviour of the plant, and the material characteristics of apples, as important foundations of market-making activities. Taking this approach blends work within science and technology studies, pragmatism, and institutionalist traditions in economics, to look at how plant botany can influence configurations of economic power. These approaches consider action to be central to the reproduction or negotiation of economic rules, and material life to be a fundamental part of agency and how it can be expressed. Materials shape practice, which in turn shapes the architecture of our economic world. My writing on the role of plants in the economy has been published in the Journal of Rural StudiesEconomy and Society, and Geoforum

The case:  
I finished my PhD on “club apples” or “managed apple varieties” in 2013. These are varieties owned, produced, and marketed through a cooperative. A project report is available for download here: Project Report. There are also a number of publications that emerged out of the project, detailed on the writing page. These fell into three categories:

  1. Aesthetics and politics
  2. Technologies, landscapes, and economic subjectivity
  3. Packing lines and supermarkets

The project on apples has developed into several ongoing projects: international apple branding and new supermarket aesthetics. It has also expanded into research on hops, and the influence that new aromatic varieties and their marketisation have had on the dynamics of craft beer production.