EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S023917/1
Title: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Agri-Food Robotics: AgriFoRwArdS
Principal Investigator: Hanheide, Professor MA
Other Investigators:
Colston, Professor BJ Harvey, Professor R Pearson, Professor S
Cipolla, Professor R Swainson, Professor M Finlayson, Professor G
Iida, Professor F
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ABB Group Agri-EOI Centre Limited AHDB (Agri & Horticulture Dev Board)
Beeswax Dyson Farming Limited Berry Gardens Growers Ltd Buhler Sortex Ltd
Cambridge Enterprise Centre for Env Fisheries Aqua Sci CEFAS Dogtooth Technologies Limited
Earlham Institute Earth Rover Ltd G's Growers Limited
GMV UK IBEX automation Ltd Institute of Physics
John Deere GmbH & Co. KG MM Flowers Limited National Inst of Agricultural Botany
OAL - Olympus Automation Ltd PA Consulting Group Saga Robotics Limited (UK)
Syngenta The Manufacturing Technology Centre Ltd
Department: School of Computer Science
Organisation: University of Lincoln
Scheme: Centre for Doctoral Training
Starts: 01 April 2019 Ends: 30 September 2031 Value (£): 7,166,949
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Artificial Intelligence Robotics & Autonomy
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Food and Drink
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Nov 2018 EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training Interview Panel A – November 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) technologies are set to transform global industries. Agri-Food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, contributing over £38bn GVA to the UK economy and employing 420,000 people. It supports a food chain (primary farming through to retail), which generates a GVA of £108bn, with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry, with £20bn of exports in 2016.

The global food chain cannot be taken for granted: it is under pressure from global population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration (e.g. Brexit), population drift from rural to urban regions and the demographics of an aging global population in advanced economies. In addition, jobs in the agri-food sector can be physically demanding, conducted in adverse environments and relatively unrewarding. The opportunity for RAS in Agri-Food is compelling - however, large-scale investment in basic underpinning research is required.

We propose to create a CDT that focuses on advanced RAS technologies, which will advance the state of the art by creating the largest global cohort of RAS specialists and leaders focused on the Agri-Food sector. This will include 50 PhD scholarships in projects co-designed with industry to give the UK global leadership in RAS across critical and essential sectors of the world economy, expanding the UK's science and engineering base whilst driving industrial productivity and mitigating the environmental and societal impacts of the currently available solutions. In terms of wider impact, the RAS challenges that need to be overcome in the agri-food sector will have further application across multiple sectors involving field robotics and/or robotics in manufacturing.

Studying robots for agriculture and food production together allows us to address fundamental challenges in RAS, while delivering whole supply chain efficiencies and synergies across both sides of the farm gate. Core research themes include autonomous mobility in challenging, often GPS-denied and unstructured environments; manipulation and soft robotics for handling delicate and unstructured food products; sensing and image interpretation in challenging agricultural and manufacturing environments; fleet management systems integrating methods for goal allocation, joint motion planning, coordination and control; and 'co-bots' for maintaining safe human-robot collaboration and interaction in farms and factories. All these themes will be applied across a range of applications in agri-food from soil preparation to selective harvesting and on-site grading, through to food processing, manufacturing and supply chain optimisation.

The Centre brings together a unique collaboration of leading researchers from the Universities of Lincoln, Cambridge and East Anglia, located at the heart of the UK agri-food business, together with the Manufacturing Technology Centre, supported by leading industrial partners and stakeholders. The wide-scale engagement with industry (£3.0M committed) and end users in the CDT will enable this basic research to be pushed rapidly towards real-world applications in the agri-food industry. An ongoing training programme will take place throughout the CDT, addressing subject-specific and general scientific and technical skills, agriculture and food manufacturing, Responsible Research and Innovation, entrepreneurship, ethics, EDI, and personal and career development. The programme is supported by excellent facilities, including an agri-robotics field centre with a fleet of state-of-the-art agri-robots; a demonstration farm with arable holdings, glasshouses, polytunnels, and livestock; an experimental food factory with robots for food production and intra-logistics; multiple robotics laboratories; advanced robotic manipulators and mobile robots; advanced sensing, imaging and camera technologies; high-performance computing facilities; and excellent links to industrial facilities and test environments.
Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.lincoln.ac.uk