Thomas P Tomich, PhD

TP Tomich in Nepal in 2016

Position Title
Founder, Food Systems Lab
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sustainability Science and Policy


Economist, advisor, author, innovator, leader

Professor Tomich has 25+ years of leadership in sustainability science, integrated ecosystem assessment, and food policy.  From rainforest conservation in the Amazon to economic development strategy in Tajikistan and his current role in food systems informatics, Tom brings global perspective and an innovative and pragmatic approach to sustainability.  He serves as an advisor to governments, international organizations, and companies, notably 10 years as a policy advisor with the Harvard Institute for International Development and four years as a member of the CGIAR's Independent Science and Partnership Council. Raised on a small family farm in northern California, Tom received his BA from the University of California, Davis, and his PhD in agricultural and food system economics from Stanford.  Tom spent most of his career abroad, including significant periods in Egypt, Indonesia, and Kenya. Tom returned to California in 2007 and is distinguished professor of sustainability science and policy and the founder of the Food Systems Lab at the University of California, Davis.

Global experience map


Education and Degree(s)
  • PhD, 1984, Food Research Institute, Stanford University
  • MA, 1982, Food Research Institute, Stanford University
  • BA, 1979, Economics, University of California, Davis
  • Education Abroad, 1976-77, American University in Cairo, Egypt
Honors and Awards
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2019
  • Faculty Stewardship Award, UC Davis Foundation, 2019
  • Inaugural holder, WK Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems (2007-2020)
  • Zayed International Prize for the Environment, 2006, with Millennium Ecosystem Assessment authors
  • CGIAR Science Award for Outstanding Partnership, 2005, with ASB Consortium members
  • Fellow, Global Evergreening Alliance, 2022
  • ESP 191A & B Workshop on Sustainable Food Systems, 2-quarter capstone course for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems majors
  • ECL 290 Climate Solutions Advocacy: "Be the Media" with guest instructor journalist Jonathan Greenberg and Prof. Tony Wexler. Develop, script, and articulate climate solution narratives for direct advocacy purposes.
Research Interests & Expertise
  • INTERESTS: sustainability, resilience, food systems, supply chains, informatics, land use, natural resource management, integrated ecosystem assessment, climate change, agroecology, tropical forests, farming systems, economic development strategy
  • LEADERSHIP (25+ years): strategic planning, organizational change, governance, donor relations, fundraising, results-based management, mentoring, effective communication, stakeholder engagement, track record of policy impact based on sound science
  • INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE (20+ years): scientific leader, policy advisor, and researcher with field experience in Africa, Asia, and South America, including Brazil, Cameroon, Egypt, the Gambia, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Peru, and Tajikistan
  • AGRICULTURAL ROOTS: raised on 120-year-old family farm growing 100 varieties of tree fruit in California’s Central Valley
  • Smart and Connected Regional Food Systems. TP Tomich and C Hoy, eds. 2023. A special topical collection in the “sustainable food” section of the journal Sustainability.
  • “Why do we need food systems informatics? Introduction to this special collection on smart and connected regional food systems.” TP Tomich, C Hoy, MR Dimock, AD Hollander, PR Huber, A Hyder, MC Lange, CM Riggle, MT Roberts, JF Quinn. 2023. Special Collection on Smart and Connected Food Systems. Sustainability 15(8), 6556,
  • “Linking biodiversity and human wellbeing in systematic conservation assessments of working landscapes.” PR Huber, M Baker, AD Hollander, MC Lange, D Miller, JF Quinn, CM Riggle, TP Tomich. 2023. Special Collection on Smart and Connected Food Systems. Sustainability 15(13), 9912,
  • “A malleable workflow for identifying the issues and indicators that define and measure sustainability in food systems.” 2022. NP Springer, AD Hollander, PR Huber, C Riggle, TP Tomich. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 6:684831.
  • “Workflows for knowledge co-production - meat and dairy processing in Ohio and Northern California.” AD Hollander, K Armstrong, MR Dimock, PF Huber, D Jackson-Smith, CM Riggle, TP Tomich. 2023. Special Collection on Smart and Connected Food Systems. Sustainability 15(13), 9991,
  • “A New Era for Meat Processing in California? Challenges and Opportunities to Enhance Resilience.” 2021. MR Dimock, C Riggle, A Hollander, P Huber & TP Tomich. UC Davis: Food Systems Lab. Retrieved from
  • "Design and Implementation of a Workshop for Evaluation of the Role of Power in Shaping and Solving Challenges in a Smart Foodshed." A Hyder, A Blatt, AD Hollander, C Hoy, PR Huber, MC Lange, JF Quinn, CM Riggle, R Sloan, and TP Tomich. Sustainabilty 2022 14, 2642
  • “Towards smart foodsheds: using stakeholder engagement to improve informatics frameworks for regional food systems.” AD Hollander, C Hoy, PR Huber, A Hyder, MC Lange, A Latham, S Lewis, JF Quinn, C Riggle, TP Tomich. “Smart Spaces and Places” 2019. Special Issue of the Annals of the American Association of Geographers
  • "Further concepts and approaches for enhancing food system resilience." J Ingram, W Bellotti, M Brklacich, T Achterbosch, B Balázs, M Banse, S Fielke, L Gordon, S Hasnain, L Herman, R Kanter, W Kaye-Blake, J Mounsey, A Pihlanto, A Quinlan, J Six, R Stotten, TP Tomich, A Tóth, C Yacamán, M Zurek. 2023. Nature Food 4, 440-441,
  • “The Great Intergenerational Robbery.” A Gadgil, TP Tomich, A Agrawal, J Allouche, IML Azevedo, MI Bakarr, G Jannuzzi, D Liverman, Y Malhi, S Polasky, J Roy, D Ürge-Vorsatz, Y Wang. 2022. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 47
  • “Food loss and waste: measurement, drivers, and solutions.” ES Spang, Y Achmon, I Donis-Gonzalez, W Gosliner, M Jablonski-Sheffield, M Abdul Momin, L Moreno, S Pace, T Quested, K Winans, TP Tomich. 2019. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 44: 117-156
  • “A world of co-benefits: solving the global nitrogen challenge.” BZ Houlton, M. Almaraz, V Aneja, AT Austin, E Bai, KG Cassman, JE Compton, EA Davidson, JW Erisman, JN Galloway, B Gu, F Yao, LA Martinelli, K Scow, WH Schlesinger, TP Tomich, C Wang, X. Zhang. 2019. Earth’s Future 7(8): 865-872
  • “Agri-food systems in international research for development: ten theses regarding impact pathways, partnerships, program design, and priority-setting for rural prosperity.” TP Tomich, P Lidder, J Dijkman, M Coley, P Webb, M Gill. 2019. Agricultural Systems 172 (2019): 101-110.
  • “Food and agricultural innovation pathways for prosperity.” TP Tomich, P Lidder, M Coley, D Gollin, R Meinzen-Dick, P Webb, P Carberry. 2019. Agricultural Systems 172 (2019): 1-15.
  • “Boundary work in research programs for sustainable development: natural resource management at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research CGIAR.” WC Clark, TP Tomich, et al. 25 April 2016. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA DOI 10.1073/pnas.0900231108
  • The California Nitrogen Assessment: Challenges and Solutions for People, Agriculture, and the Environment. TP Tomich, S Brodt, R Dahlgren, and K Scow, eds. 2016. Oakland: University of California Press, 300 pp, executive summary available at
  • “Indicators of global sustainable sourcing as a set covering problem: an integrated approach to sustainability.” PR Huber, NP Springer, AD Hollander, VR Haden, S Brodt, TP Tomich, and JF Quinn. 2015. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability 1(2):7.
  • “Sustainable sourcing of global agricultural raw materials: assessing gaps in key impact and vulnerability issues and indicators.” NP Springer, et al., and TP Tomich. 2015. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0128752. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128752
  • “Agroecology: a review from a global change perspective.” TP Tomich, S Brodt, H Ferris, R Galt, W Horwath, E Kebreab, J Leveau, D Liptzin, M Lubell, P Merel, R Michelmore T Rosenstock, K Scow, J Six, N Williams, and L Yang. 2011. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 36:193-222. DOI 10.1146/annurev-environ-012110-121302
  • Ecosystems and Human Well-being – A Manual for Assessment Practitioners. N Ash, H Blanco, C Brown, K Garcia, T Henrichs, N Lucas, C Raudsepp-Hearne, RD Simpson, R Scholes, TP Tomich, B Vira, and M Zurek, eds. 2010. Washington, DC: Island Press, 264 pp.
  • “Integrative science in practice: process perspectives from ASB, the Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins.” TP Tomich et al. 2007. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 121 (3): 269-286.
  • Forest and Agroecosystem Tradeoffs in the Humid Tropics. A Crosscutting Assessment by the Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn Consortium Conducted as a Sub-global Component of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. TP Tomich and CA Palm (coordinating lead authors), et al. 2005. Nairobi: Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn Programme, 163 pp.
  • Environmental Services and Land Use Change: Bridging the Gap between Policy and Research in Southeast Asia. TP Tomich, M van Noordwijk, and DE Thomas, eds. 2004. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 244 pp. Also published as a special issue of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, Vol. 104 (1), 204 pp.
  • Transforming Agrarian Economies: Opportunities Seized, Opportunities Missed. TP Tomich, P Kilby and BF Johnston. 1995. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 474 pp.
Membership and Service
  • Co-editor, Annual Review of Environment and Resources since 2015; ARER Editorial Committee member since 2008.
  • Founding Director, Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis (2007-2020)
  • Director, UC Statewide Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (2007-2020)
  • Co-founder and Host, Inter-institutional Network for Food, Agriculture, & Sustainability (INFAS), a national network of more than two dozen directors of sustainability centers and endowed chairs (2010-2020)
  • Subject Matter Expert, CGIAR Independent Science for Development Council (since 2021); Member, CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council (2014-2018)
  • Global Coordinator, ASB, the Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins – formerly known as the Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn Programme (2000-2006); Principal Economist, World Agroforestry Centre (1994-2006)
  • Institute Associate, Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID), Harvard University (1984-1994)