AgriFoRwArdS Newsletter Issue 5 - July 2021 Edition

Welcome to the fifth issue of the AgriFoRwArdS CDT Newsletter, scroll down to find out what has been happening within the AgriFoRwArdS, and wider Agri-Food Robotics, community recently.

AgriFoRwArdS Student News

Students Launch Drink Outside the Box Social Sessions

A group of AgriFoRwArdS Students have worked hard over the last few months to launch a new event series called 'Drink Outside the Box'.

Roopika Ravikanna, Karoline Heiwolt and Harry Rogers are leading on the organisation of a new fortnightly social event for students of AgriFoRwArdS, the wider robotics community at Lincoln, and robotics students from other Universities across the UK. The events allow the students to find out about the ongoing research of their fellow students, but most importantly, connect socially.

The first Drink Outside the Box took place in April 2021, and the students have a range of activities planned for future events. At present, the majority of events are taking place on Teams, with more in-person events planned for the future. Students can expect a mix of games and competitions, short informal presentations, discussions and chats. Attendees are encouraged to put forward ideas for future activities, to contribute towards this student-led activity.

An update on Drink Outside the Box will be given by the students in the next edition of the AgriFoRwArdS Newsletter.

If you would like more information, or would like to be part of the student planning team, please email theAgriforwardsBox@lincoln.ac.uk.

AgriFoRwArdS Student presents at International Women in Engineering Celebration

The Lincolnshire Institute of Technology (LIoT) held a virtual event on June 23rd, to contribute to the celebration of International Women in Engineering day. The event saw talks from renowned female engineers on their work, why they chose an engineering subject, and their experiences of working in the sector. Find out more about the event and LIoT on their website.

Roopika presented at LIoT's celebration for International Women in Engineering Day.

Roopika Ravikanna, an AgriFoRwArdS PhD Student, presented as part of this event with a talk entitled 'Maximising availability of fruit transportation robots through intelligent allocation of parking spaces'.

When asked about how she felt about the event, Roopika explained;

I felt humbled to be talking alongside fantastic women like Dr. Mini Saaj (School of Engineering) and Dr. Isabel Campelos (Holbeach Campus, NCFM). Libby John, Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of College of Science chaired the event and gave us all wonderful feedback.

You can watch the full event on the University of Lincoln YouTube. Roopika's presentation begins at 58 minutes.

Celebrating Students' Achievements

Within the AgriFoRwArdS CDT we want to celebrate all of our students' achievements. It is important for students to recognise their own achievements, big or small, and so we asked them to share their recent successes with us.

Amie Owen, currently studying an MSc RAS at the University of Lincoln, said;

I am proud of learning a new Multi-Agent programmable modelling environment (called Netlogo) with its own language. It was a challenge to get to grips with as it's a very different language to the ones that I have used before. I felt proud to have been able to use my imagination to create a simulation using this language and getting a good mark in this task.

Amie will be commencing her PhD study at the University of Lincoln in October, under the supervision of Elizabeth Sklar, a Professor of Agri-Robotics within the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology,

Harry Rogers is currently studying an MSc RAS at the University of Lincoln and will be going on to study his PhD at the University of East Anglia in October. He will be collaborating with Syngenta with the support of his Primary Supervisor Dr Tahmina Zebin.

When asked about his succssess over the last year, Harry told us;

I am proud of setting up Drink Outside the Box, with Karoline and Roopika. It's been really nice to be able to meet new people, not just from the CDT, but also other RAS members within the University.

Elijah Almanzor will be heading to the University of Cambridge in October to study his PhD under the supervision of AgriFoRwArdS Co-Investigator and Reader in Robotics, Dr Fumiya Iida. His PhD will be in collaboration with Jersey Farmers Union.

Elijah explained his knowledge success;

I have learnt a lot more about the AI side of robotics

Jack advised;

I gave one of the spotlight talks at the ICRA Task-Informed Grasping Workshop a few months ago, for a review paper that Mazvydas and I wrote; I am also quite happy with how much I learned while working on an NCNR project with Amir on robotic sort and segmentation of nuclear material.

Jack Foster is currently studying his MSc RAS at the University of Lincoln and will be progressing to his PhD study at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Dr Alexandra Brintrup, Lecturer in digital manufacturing within the Institute for Manufacturing.

Ni Wang, who is currently studying her MSc RAS at the University of Lincoln will be heading to the University of East Anglia in October to begin her PhD study under the supervisor of Primary Supervisor, Professor Graham Finlayson.

When we asked about Ni's achievements over the last few months she explained;

I'm now much better at academic writing than before. In recent months, one of my lecturers and I, have worked on a publication together and submitted it to International MRS Conference 2021. This event is due to be held in November, in the UK. Although not knowing the review result yet, I at least benefited, and got encouraged, from this writing and submission experience. I expect to reach another milestone in my MSc project in the following 3 months.

You can find out more about the International MRS Conference 2021 here.

Mazvydas will be moving to the University of East Anglia to commence his PhD study, once he has completed his MSc RAS at the University of Lincoln. He will be working with his Primary Supervisor, Dr Michal Mackiewicz.

Mazvydas told us about what he considered his best success;

Winning part of the AgriFoRwArdS Poinsettia Hackathon. There were participants from all over the UK, and some international participants, and so winning one of the categories was certainly an achievement.

Read about the Poinsettia Hackathon here.

Mazvydas has also had his first Robotics paper accepted for presentation, alongside fellow AgriFoRwArdS Student, Jack Foster. 'Perception in Agri-food Manipulation: A Review' was accepted for a spotlight presentation at the ICRA Task-Informed Grasping Workshop.

Roopika Ravikanna studied her MSc RAS at the University of Lincoln and in October 2020 began her PhD study at the University. Her project, Fleet Management of Autonomous Agricultural Robots with Human Awareness, is in collaboration with Saga Robotics and Roopika is studying under the primary supervision of CDT Director, Prof Marc Hanheide.

When we asked Roopika about her successes since joining the CDT she said;

Over the last year, I have personally improved my skills in all areas of academics, making me feel on the right track of progress. I have submitted a few papers for conferences of which I have had a publication in UKRAS this year. I am awaiting the results for TAROS and the Joint CDT conference.
AgriFoRwArdS Events

Associated Training

The AgriFoRwArdS CDT students have been taking part in various associated training sessions throughout the last few months, with more to come.

Leadership and Management

Students, from both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2, are currently undertaking a Leadership and Management Level 3 course. The training is designed to help them develop to become effective and confident leaders; to secure better relationships and communication in teams; and provide students with the tools to develop their own skills and abilities. This training has been facilitated by the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) and is taking place at the University of Lincoln’s Brayford Campus. The first two sessions, which took place on the 9th and 10th June 2021, were the first face-to-face associated training sessions attend by the students. Student feedback was that it was a wonderful opportunity to finally get to spend some time together as a group. The final two sessions of this course will take place on 15th and 16th July.

NCFM facilitated ILM Level 3 training for the AgriFoRwArdS CDT students

Introduction to Agriculture; opportunities and challenges

Cohort 1 students attended the University of Lincoln’s Riseholme Campus, in November 2019, for a two-day workshop entitled ‘Introduction to Agriculture’. Due to the coronavirus Cohort 2’s attendance at this workshop was delayed. However, they finally had the opportunity to attend the sessions, which covered soils, weeds, crops and rotation and environment, in June of this year. The course was designed to introduce the students to the role of current technologies in agriculture, as well as some key challenges and opportunities, focusing on arable farming in the East Midlands. Students advised that they enjoyed the chance to be outdoors and get involved in practical work.

Four sessions took place over 2 days and gave the students another opportunity to experience face-to-face teaching, as well as spending time together as a cohort.

We would like to thank CDT Supervisors, Dr Oorbessy Gaju, Dr Iain Gould, and Isobel Wright and LIAT's Simon Goodger for their fantastic teaching during what was the first face-to-face teaching session for the Riseholme Campus.

Feedback, from the students, following the course, included;

The things taught were in depth and technical, I gained a good understanding of the challenges facing farmers and growers
I enjoyed seeing the campus and being made aware of the work conducted there
The training was put together well, it's provided what feels like a good top-level overview of agriculture whilst also providing a philosophical understanding of area and not just providing buzz words and terminology
I loved the first session with Isobel where we explored the farm, and I really enjoyed the informal nature of being able to ask questions while out and about - it brought it to life much more than in a lecture room


On 20th July the AgriFoRwArdS students will be visiting the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM). Located at Holbeach, in South Lincolnshire, the NCFM is a satellite campus of the University of Lincoln. NCFM works on a regional, national and international basis, providing education, research and technical business support for the food and drink industry and related supply chains.

The students will experience a tour of the specialist technical facilities available at NCFM, including a dedicated food factory (with full-scale and pilot plant), food chemistry and microbiology laboratories, plus new product development facilities.

Professor Mark Swainson (Deputy Head at NCFM, and an AgriFoRwArdS Co-Investigator), and other NCFM colleagues, will provide the students with an overview of the food manufacturing industry, its sectors and its operational challenges. During the on-site sessions, the NCFM Team will cover aspects of, productivity, efficiency, factory and process design and make links to the sector advancement opportunities for robotics and wider digitalisation.

The training will also drill down into the integration of robotics, vision systems and AI technologies, all often required to achieve high impact solutions. This will include a demonstration in the NCFM robotics lab.

Research Agenda - Partnership with industry is at the heart of the NCFM research agenda. With strong food manufacturing, supply chain and related technology sector links and close academic partnership, multidisciplinary research at NCFM supports the food sector growth and innovation challenges. Core research areas include; Food Manufacturing Digitalisation & Advanced Food Processing Technologies; Food Microbiology and Chemistry (Food Analysis, Nutrition and Product Safety), Food Insights and Sustainability - including carbon net-zero and food security agendas.

Email: ncfm@lincoln.ac.uk or Telephone: 01406 493000.

Follow on LinkedIn and Twitter @UoLNCFM

Website: https://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/holbeach/apprenticeships/

The AgriFoRwArdS CDT Summer School 'Cambridge Style'

The AgriFoRwArdS Team at the University of Cambridge organised a fantastic first AgriFoRwArdS CDT Summer School this June.

Hosted in collaboration with the UK-RAS STAR Network, the Summer School, which took place from 28th to 30th June 2021, brought together both MSc and PhD students, from AgriFoRwArdS, the Lincoln Agri-Robotics Centre and the UK-RAS Network Robotic Programme.

31 students participated in the Summer School, allowing Cambridge to offer an ambitious workshop programme, where students worked together on complex practical exercises to produce inspiring mini projects, which were then presented as part of the AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference. A variety of Teaching Assistants and Post Doctoral Research from the Department of Engineering assisted over the three days to allow students to develop skills necessary to progress in their future careers.

Activities focused on two of the four career paths identified within the CDT; Academic and Entrepreneurial. The University of Cambridge chose these paths as they felt these areas shared many similar features with the University's areas of expertise.

Students were sent a Robotics Kit in the post, which AgriFoRwArdS CDT Student Grzegorz Sochacki worked very hard to pull together. These kits were used by students during three days of activities focused around the scanning of fruit.

Mornings during the Summer School proceedings saw presentations and workshops led by both academics and industry, including;

  • Fumiya Iida (University of Cambridge) - Research Paper Writing - Tutorial
  • Fulvio Forni (University of Cambridge) - How to Survive in Academia - Panel Discussion
  • Helen Francis (University of Cambridge) - Knowledge Exchange - Presentation
  • Fulvio Forni (University of Cambridge) - Presentation Skills - Tutorial
  • Fumiya Iida (University of Cambridge), Jamie Pulido Fentanes (Saga Robotics) and Yuki Nakagawa (RT Corporation) - How to Survive as Entrepreneurs - Panel Discussion
  • Amy Weatherup (i-Teams Programme) - Making the Entrepreneurial Leap - Presentation
  • Belinda Colston (University of Lincoln) - Equality, Diversity and Inclusion - Presentation

In the afternoons, students split into their teams. On day one, students opened their Robotic Kits for the first time, discussing and outlining their potential Summer School projects. Day two allowed the students to report on their progress and show their preliminary results. On the third day, students presented their Summer School projects to the group and were given support with improving their presentations.

Valuable feedback was received from students following the event, which the University of East Anglia will look to take in to consideration when they host the AgriFoRwArdS Summer School 2022.

The AgriFoRwArdS Team at the University of Cambridge were thrilled with the students attendance and enthusiasm, and they would like to thank all who were involved. The AgriFoRwArdS Team would like to celebrate the progress all students made over the three days. The three days passed quickly, and all the students showed remarkable progress in their learning, as well as great resilience to the workshop pressure.

2nd CDT Annual Conference

The University of East Anglia hosted the 2nd AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference on the 1st and 2nd July 2021. The conference focused on the latest research and innovation in computer vision, for the agri-food industries. Due to government restrictions the conference was held virtually, in a similar fashion to the 1st AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference hosted by the University of Cambridge in 2020.

The conference featured presentations from academics, industry leaders and AgriFoRwArdS students, all loosely themed around the area of robotic vision in the agri-food sector. Presentations were held via Zoom, with opportunities to network and meet the presenters via text and video on Discord.

Nearly 100 people attended over the two day conference, which provided an opportunity to participate in discussions with leading academics and industry representatives working at the cutting edge in the field, as well as from some of the future leaders in agri-food robotics: the first and second cohorts of AgriFoRwArdS postgraduate researchers.

Keynote presentations were heard from;

  • Bob Fisher, University of Edinburgh: “The TrimBot2020 gardening robot and other agricultural robot issues” - Prof Robert Fisher has been an academic in the School of Informatics (originally in the former Department of Artificial Intelligence) at University of Edinburgh since 1984 and a full Professor since 2003. He received his PhD from University of Edinburgh (1987), investigating computer vision in the former Department of Artificial Intelligence.
  • Jeff Keiser, IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software: "30+ Years of AgriTech ... What have we learned? ... and, how do we apply that for the future?" - Jeff Keiser, Lead Product Manager, Agribusiness & Geospatial Analytics, IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software is recognized as an industry leader in digital farming, crop technology, and data and analytics across his more than 30 years of experience in global agribusiness. He designs and helps IBM's farm & agribusiness clients overcome challenges in precision farm data management and analysis through innovation and delivery of advanced environment analytics that solve business challenges by leveraging machine-collected and geospatial data and creating new business intelligence for crop management insights.
  • Tony Pridmore, University of Nottingham: “Plant Phenotyping: Getting to the root of the problem” - Tony Pridmore is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, where he leads the Computer Vision Laboratory. He holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Warwick and a PhD in Computer Vision from the University of Sheffield. Before returning to Computer Science in 1999 he held academic posts in both Information and Manufacturing Engineering.

Prizes were awarded by Professor Richard Harvey, for:

  • Best Presentation
  • Best Question
  • Best Student Presentation
  • Best Summer School Presentation
  • Most Entertaining Presentation
Winners were given a certificate and a coveted AgriFoRwArdS CDT hoodie

Karoline Heiwolt, AgriFoRwArdS PhD Student, who won the Best PhD Presentation Award said;

I felt very happy and grateful to win the prize and also for lots of helpful comments and feedback from the AgriFoRwArdS community. I had amazing support from my supervisor Grzegorz Cielniak and my previous supervisor Tom Duckett in preparing this presentation. Overall, I most enjoyed the very friendly and productive atmosphere of the conference, which made it easy to engage with everyone, and hearing my fellow CDT students’ fantastic presentations.

We also spoke to Garry Clawson, who is currently studying his BSc at the University of Lincoln and will be joining AgriFoRwArdS in October 2021. Garry won the Best Question Award, here is what he had to say about the experience.

I was a little stunned to win a prize. Part of the success of this conference was having the opportunity to ask questions of experts. Being able to interact throughout the presentations was really useful to engaging in the presentation topic. As an early researcher who will be joining with Cohort 3 in October 2021, I learn a lot from how questions are asked and answered and appreciate the opportunity to do this. This is my first CDT conference. I was really surprised with the breadth of presentations, from Jeff Keiser of IBM Watson touching on blockchain technology to Karoline Heiwolt discussing new approaches of deep learning for 3D plant segmentation across to Grzegorz Sochacki demonstrating soft robotics in the robotic chef domain. Each of the student presentations were phenomenal as were the keynote speakers. It was really well organized event with a great mix of industry and academia and I look forward to next years. A huge thank you to University of East Anglia and the wider AgriFoRwArdS team for hosting and arranging this CDT conference. As an early researcher it is very exciting to have the opportunity to see, present and get feedback on ideas but also have the chance to engage with distinguished members such as Tony Pridmore, Bob Fisher and Jeff Keiser.

Mazvydas Gudelis, who is currently studying his MSc with the AgriFoRwArdS CDT, was part of the Lettuce Team, who won the Best Summer School Presentation Award. Here is what he had to say about the prize, the conference and the summer school.

I was really surprised when we won, especially when I know I've seen others present in more detail and include more metrics. I guess people thought ours was cool due to the neat model inference gifs we included in the presentation slides. Both the conference and the summer school were very well organized. The inclusion of the turntable, teams, tasks and presentations made it feel like a hackathon at some points, which I really liked. Me and I think my whole team were really surprised when we won, I think we all knew it's probably by a margin. It was clear how surprised and shy about it we were. I think as far as apple grading standards, their damage assessment and all that core bit of our presentation is better known by the other members of our team. I focused on technical Machine Learning bits and getting everything to work so my support is always the same - google and redbull. The conference was very well organized, I for one was very happy to see some CEFAS presentations as I'll be working with them in the future.

The AgriFoRwArdS Team would like to thank everyone who attended and participated in the Conference, it was your enthusiastic participation which made the conference such a success.


Last year AgriFoRwArdS hosted the 3rd UK-RAS Conference for PhD and Early-Career Researchers (find out more about the conference on the AgriFoRwArdS website).

On the 2nd June 2021, the 4th UK-RAS Conference for PhD and Early-Career Researchers was hosted remotely by the University of Hertfordshire. The theme of this year’s conference was “Robotics at Home” and the programme featured three inspiring Keynote speakers and 12 oral presentations as well as an interactive session with 17 parallel poster presentations, including AgriFoRwArdS Student, Roopika Ravikanna.

Dr Jelizaveta Konstantinova (Ocado Technology) opened the first session on “Robots Making Themselves At Home” with an excellent keynote talk on “Robots in the workplace: Innovation at Ocado Technology and the SecondHands project”. And the afternoon session on “Robotics Research While Working From Home” was opened by Prof. Ana Cavalcanti (University of York) with a fascinating talk on “RoboStar modelling stack: tackling the reality gap”.

An interactive session on discord replaced the traditional in-person poster session and offered the chance for conference delegates to interact directly with the 17 presenters in dedicated text and video chat rooms.

The final session of the day focussed on “Robotics For Use In The Home” and featured a fantastic keynote talk on “Humans and Robots Together: Engineering Sociality and Collaboration” from Prof. Ana Paiva (GAIPS, INESC-ID and IST, Universidade de Lisboa).

Meet the AgriFoRwArdS Team

Prof Mark Swainson

Professor Mark Swainson, Co-Investigator for the AgriFoRwArdS CDT, is Deputy Head of the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM), where he leads the Higher Education and Research agendas.

Mark completed his BSc (Hons) in Combined Sciences (Biology & Chemistry) at Coventry University and whilst working in industry, achieved an MSc with distinction in Industrial Food Technology (Lincolnshire & Humberside University). His academic career focus often involves advancement of the industrial food manufacturing sector and related supply chains. He developed expertise and experience in this area whilst working for many years in senior Technical, R&D and Operations Management roles in the high risk chilled and frozen food industry.

His work related to research and development of robotics, wider digitalisation technologies and their application in the food manufacturing sector is usually conducted in Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator roles on projects funded by Horizon 2020, EPSRC, ISCF, Innovate UK and EU Interreg. He has extensive experience in food safety, quality, and legality, which in the robotics field often links to aspects of hygienic design and advanced operational control. He is a qualified Lead Auditor, a member of the Knowledge Transfer Network (Food Sector Advisory Group), a Fellow of the Institute of Food Science & Technology and a member of the Institute of Packaging. He also often works on food system sustainability with a focus on building sustainable research project infrastructures which are aligned with University expertise and resources as well as wider networks.

Dr Sebastian Pattinson

Dr Sebastian Pattinson is a University Lecturer in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, developing 3D printed devices and learning 3D printing systems.

Sebastian Pattinson will begin supervising his first AgriFoRwArdS CDT student, Haihui Yan, in October. Haihui's PhD project is in partnership with Dyson Farming, who provide support for Engineering Students via Corpus Christi College.

Before joining the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge, Sebastian was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. There he developed new additivity manufactured devices, whose structure and composition are designed to improve interaction with the human body, as well as scalable and sustainable methods for 3D printing cellulose, the world's most abundant organic polymer.

Sebastian received Masters and PhD degrees from the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge, where he developed synthesis methods to control the structure and function of nanomaterials. His awards include a UK Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard award, US National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Doctoral Training Grant, MIT Translational Fellowship and a (Google) X Moonshot Fellowship.

Sebastian's research interests include;

Additive manufacturing could significantly improve wearable and implantable devices by better mimicking the complexity and diversity of human bodies, yet novel processes and materials are needed to realize this potential. We use materials chemistry, additive manufacturing, as well as computational design and learning to produce new devices and materials whose structure is controlled from the nano- to the macro-scale for enhanced function.

If you interested in collaboration with Sebastian, please visit the web-site for his Complex Additive Materials Group.

Agri-Food Robotics Research Continues

Robot Highways Publish in Nature Food

CDT Director Prof Marc Hanheide (University of Lincoln) and CDT Co-Investigator Prof Simon Pearson (University of Lincoln) recently co-authored a significant paper in Nature Food alongside fellow academics, lead author Dr David Rose (University of Reading), and co-authors, Jessica Lyon (University of Reading) and Auvikki de Boon (University of Reading).

The paper ‘Responsible development of autonomous robotics in agriculture’ discusses the embedding of responsible research and innovation in user-centred design of autonomous robots.

The paper was a result of the Robot Highways project, a joint vision for the future of soft fruit farming, funded by Innovate UK. This exciting project involves several partners, each with significant expertise in their chosen area. Led by Saga Robotics, alongside the University of Lincoln, British Telecommunications, Clock House Farm, University of Reading, Manufacturing Technology Centre and Berry Gardens Growers, Robot Highways will be the largest known global demonstration of robotic and autonomous (RAS) technologies that fuse multiple application technologies across a single farming system.

This project will focus on providing fleets of electric robotic and autonomous systems powered by renewable energy that pick, transport and pack fruit whilst gathering data to maximise yield, reduce waste and environmental impacts. These technologies underpin industry sustainability by reducing sector reliance on low skilled labour, whilst upskilling the existing workforce.

Key aims of the project are;

  1. Elimination of fossil fuel across all farm logistic operations.
  2. Reduction in fungicide use (by UVC) and intrinsic carbon cost.
  3. Reduction in packhouse labour and reduction in farm labour (plus intrinsic carbon costs associated with people movement etc).
  4. Increase in farm productivity (yield per m2) and intrinsic carbon gain.
  5. Reduction fruit waste, through accurate forecasting.

AgriFoRwArdS CDT Director, Marc Hanheide, plays a significant role in the project, here is what he had to say.

Automating soft-fruit production offers huge opportunities for growers, with the potential of addressing labour shortages, offering higher quality products, and reducing environmental impact. But the developments must not only be governed by what is technically possible, but also by the input of stakeholders, such as farmers and their workforce as well as the wider public. The £2.5M Robot Highways Project pools the industrial and academic expertise in the UK to move forward on a path of responsible innovation in this sector, working towards an automated strawberry farm.
As a research institution, the University of Lincoln is committed to responsible innovation. We have partnered with colleagues at the University of Reading to specifically look at the opportunities and challenges of robotic automation in soft-fruit production. The gist is: Addressing the social, legal and ethical implications of autonomous robots can often pose a greater challenge than the development of the technology itself, which is why we co-create our technology with the direct involvement of end-users and industries right from the start.

A Robot in the Long Grass

We would like to introduce the latest addition to the robot family here at Lincoln. This new platform is designed for in-field robotic phenotyping. Intended to straddle industry standard trial plots (1.5m), the main sensor is a Dual Phenospex Planteye500 system. This will allow us to generate multispectral 3D pointcloud data for phenotyping in situations closer to real-world conditions. Moving the robot around has been helped greatly by building the platform on top of the Thorvald platform from SAGA Robotics. Already nicknamed 'The Beast' by SAGA staff, as far as we can tell, this is the largest system based on their platform. Additionally, the platform is soon to be equipped with a number of other sensors that will come online in the coming months;

  • RTK GPS - so that we can navigate and make repeated measurements of the same crops,
  • Multispectral still camera - Taking photographs in 5 Wavelength bands, usually used in drone photography,
  • Infrared Camera - At the request of plant scientists for measuring the temperature of crops,
  • Hyperspectral Still Camera - for when you are very interested in very specific wavelengths of light,
  • Realsense RGBD Camera - A ubiquitous device in robotics, being tested for applications in plant science.

The future is already looking busy for the platform. While it's performing initial trials at the moment, trial plots are already growing here in Lincoln so it should be a busy summer for AgriFoRwArdS and LIAT staff and students.

Built mainly by Dr. Rob Lloyd, the AgriFoRwArdS Senior Mechatronics Engineer during the 2020 - 2021 'difficult period', this Robot has truly shown that Robotics is a team sport. It couldn't have been completed without the help of others at The University of Lincoln and our partners. Special thanks go to the AgriFoRwArdS CDT team, colleagues in LCAS and LIAT and SAGA Robotics.

Other News

FPC Future and FPC Careers 04 November 2021 Lincolnshire Showground

A new conference and exhibition event showcasing the latest developments in agri robotics and automation technologies will take place at the Epic Centre, Lincolnshire Showground.

The ‘FPC Future’ event that the Fresh Produce Consortium (UK association for fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers) is launching in conjunction with the University of Lincoln will feature an array of ground-breaking technologies and innovations both pre and post-farm gate.

You’ll be able to hear a range of agritech talks and presentations on key themes from leading industry figures and academics as well interacting with businesses in the exhibition area.

Registration will be free for all delegates and there will be an opportunity to sign up for tours of the University's Riseholme Campus too showcasing the University’s AI, robotics and engineering projects.

The showground event will be co-located with ‘FPC Careers’ - an event that will encourage students to consider a career in fresh produce, horticulture and related sectors as a first career choice. It will be open too to other young people who are seeking a second career within the industry or career change.

To register as an exhibitor please contact Linda Bloomfield linda@freshproduce.org.uk

For more information and to register as an attendee click here

CDT Academics Appear in the Media

Over the last few months members of our CDT community have featured on several television shows and other media outlets, speaking about various aspects of agri-food robotics research.

Our very own AgriFoRwArdS CDT Director, Professor Marc Hanheide, featured on BBC Countryfile on Sunday 18th April 2021.

Marc was at Clock House Farm in Kent, where he discussed another of his fantastic projects, Robot Highways, funded by Innovate UK.

The exciting Robot Highways project involves several partners, each with significant expertise in their chosen areas. The project is being led by AgriFoRwArdS Industry Partner, Saga Robotics, alongside the University of Lincoln, British Telecommunications, Clock House Farm, University of Reading, and AgriFoRwArdS Industry Partners, the Manufacturing Technology Centre and Berry Gardens Growers.

Robot Highways will be the largest known global demonstration of robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) technologies, fusing multiple application technologies across a single farming system. With focus on providing fleets of electric RAS powered by renewable energy, which pick, transport and pack fruit, whilst also gathering data to maximise yield, and reduce waste and environmental impacts.

You can watch the episode ‘Hambleden Valley’ on BBC iPlayer.

Professor Elizabeth Sklar was part of a BBC documentary series 'Click' in January 2021.

The University of Lincoln’s very own Professor Elizabeth Sklar featured in BBC online documentary series ‘Click’ in an an episode called ‘The Virtual Race’, which focused on virtual cycling but also explored concepts closer to home for AgriFoRwArdS, including upcoming technology in agriculture.

When asked about human-robot interaction, Elizabeth Sklar, Professor in Agri-Robotics within Lincoln Agri-Robotics said;

I think what we are going to see in 2021, is the increased prevalence of robots co-existing in spaces with people

Go to BBC iPlayer to watch the episode!

AgriFoRwArdS DT Supervisor, Petra Bosilj, spoke to the Robot Talk team

Dr Petra Bosilj is a Senior Lecturer in Agri-Food Technology within the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology at the University of Lincoln. In April of this year, Petra spoke to the hosts of podcast 'Robot Talk', alongside co-guest Chris Chavasse founder of MuddyMachines, about agricultural robotics and farming for the future.

You can listen to the episode of Robot Talk here.

Contact us

If you have any comments, information or news you wish to share with the AgriFoRwArdS community, please do get in touch - We'd love to hear from you.

The AgriFoRwArdS CDT Delivery Team - agriforwards.cdt@lincoln.ac.uk

Visit us on the web at www.agriforwards-cdt.ac.uk and don’t forget to subscribe to the AgriFoRwArdS CDT YouTube channel here.


Created with an image by geralt - "contact team office"