AgriFoRwArdS Newsletter Issue 14 - October 2023 Edition

Welcome to the 14th issue of the AgriFoRwArdS CDT Newsletter. Scroll down to find out what has been happening within AgriFoRwArdS, and the wider Agri-Food Robotics community, recently.

Make sure to follow us on Linked In to keep up to date with all the latest news and activities!

AgriFoRwArdS Student News

Welcome to the 5th Cohort of AgriFoRwArdS CDT Students

We would like to wish a warm welcome to our fifth cohort of talented AgriFoRwArdS students, who commenced their MSc RAS studies with the University of Lincoln, this month.

We are so pleased that these students will join our existing wonderful students, and the AgriFoRwArdS community is looking forward to watching their successes.

The AgriFoRwArdS students introduce themselves below.

Ben Horner

About me

I joined the CDT for the opportunity to get exposure to real-world applications of robotics. I’m looking forward to getting to work alongside industry partners to get a better understanding of a problem from the initial concept all the way to the end goal/product.

I studied at the University of Lincoln for my undergraduate degree and I enjoyed it so much here I decided to stay; my favourite aspect of Lincoln is the amount of green spaces there are around the city.

Research interests

My research interests include, human-robot interaction, machine learning and soft robotics.

Ben will be studying the PhD at the University of Lincoln

Catherine Merchant

About me

I have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, during my degree I studied sustainable initiatives such as building an offgrid refrigeration system to assist farmers in rural Africa. However it was my experience in designing a fully automated vertical farm that sparked my interest in how technology can improve sustainability. This experience has motivated me to pursue further knowledge and its practical applications. The CDT is the perfect opportunity for me to deepen my expertise and contribute to sustainable agriculture.

Research interests

I am interested in researching focus on sustainable solutions and using cutting-edge engineering to benefit the environment.

Catherine will be studying the PhD at the University of Cambridge

Dimitris Paparas

About me

Hello, I’m Dimitris. I’m from Greece and have been studying in the UK for three years. I hold a BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Southampton. I learned about the CDT during the second year of my undergraduate degree. I felt drawn to it because of its solid industrial focus and potential to significantly impact the world.

In the past, I have worked on projects involving robotics and sensing, the most notable being the CanSat USA competition. I’m also deeply interested in IoT applications and have tinkered with smart devices at the hobbyist level. During my PhD at the University of Cambridge, I’m eager to explore the potential use of biosensors as a non-invasive prognostic tool in agricultural applications. My personal aspiration is to demonstrate a proof-of-concept wireless sensing system. I am equally excited to expose myself to the field of robotics and autonomous systems through the MSc at Lincoln.

On a more personal and upbeat note, I enjoy cooking and constantly seek to improve my culinary skills. I like to stay active through long walks, hikes, and the gym. When I’m not doing much, I usually watch movies/series/anime or listen to podcasts – especially on long commutes.

Research interests

My research interests include, distributed sensing, wireless sensor networks, edge computing, IoT, biosensors, energy harvesting, and predictive models.

Dimitris will be studying the PhD at the University of Cambridge

Eden Attenborough

About me

My interest in robotics was sparked at the robotics club in my school, which participated in the RoboCup Junior competition. Our team participated in the international finals in Hefei, China in 2015. Before starting in Lincoln I completed an integrated masters (MComp) degree in Computer Science at UEA. I was also the president of the Computer Science society at UEA from 2022-23.

I’m looking forward to learning under experienced teachers in Lincoln and studying for my PhD at UEA. I’m also looking forward to help introduce technologies to aid in labour shortages in the agricultural sector, and help build a better world in an ethical and sustainable way.

Outside of robotics I enjoy tinkering with servers in my personal homelab, and going for long walks in the Norfolk countryside.

Research interests

I am interested in sensor fusion and localisation.

Eden will be studying the PhD at the University of East Anglia

Elliot Smith

About me

I joined the CDT because I want to develop revolutionary novel farming technology based on new principles of agriculture. My favourite thing about the CDT is access to agricultural robotic testing facilities.

My favourite thing about Lincoln is the change of pace from London to a rural countryside setting. I am looking forward to studying in Lincoln because I get continued access to the Riseholme site to test my creations.

My career goal is to start a world leading agricultural robotics company, and the areas of agri-food robotics I am most interest in are full stack, farm to fork, and creating new robotic agricultural systems.

In my spare time I enjoy music, computer games, and fitness. A fun fact about me is that I have 540 degrees of rotation through my wrist due to joint hyper mobility.

Research interests

My research interests are, computer vision, segmentation, semantic mapping, simulation generation, robotic rovers, salad harvesting, fleet management, regenerative agriculture, and sustainable agriculture.

Elliot will be studying the PhD at the University of Lincoln

Emmanuel Soumo

About me

I am from a community deeply rooted in agriculture. Motivated by a desire to address the pressing challenges facing his community, particularly in the agricultural sector, I decided to join the CDT. I particularly like the variety of research and networking opportunities offered by the CDT. My favourite thing about Lincoln is the friendly atmosphere. Many residents and visitors comment on the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of Lincoln. It's often seen as a safe and pleasant place to live. I am going to be conducting my PhD at the University of Lincoln.

My career goal is to become an expert in precision agriculture, where I use robotics and AI to optimize farming practices. This role involves data analysis, sensor integration, and the development of algorithms to improve crop yield and resource utilization. I am also looking forward to starting my own company or joining a startup in the agtech sector, where I can innovate and develop new agricultural technologies such as autonomous tractors, drone-based crop monitoring, or AI-driven decision support systems. Having a strong passion for teaching, I would like to work as a research scientist in academia, government research institutions, or private companies to develop cutting-edge robotic systems and AI algorithms tailored to agriculture. This role involves designing, implementing, and evaluating robotic solutions for tasks such as harvesting, weeding, and monitoring crops. In my spare time, I enjoy listening to music or reading self-development books.

Research interests

My research interests include, robotics, computer vision, perception and signal processing.

Emmanuel will be studying the PhD at the University of Lincoln

George Davies

About me

I moved back to England after 11 years in France to start my undergraduate degree in computer science in 2019 at the University of East Anglia where I found the Computer Vision and Machine Learning modules very interesting. The thing I like the most about Lincoln is how close everything is, how it is possible to walk to any place. In my spare time, I like to go play a bit of snooker or pool. I have recently built my own PC and enjoy playing competitive e-sports games on it. After the 2023/24 year in Lincoln, I will be going back to UEA, where I will complete my PhD.

Research interests

My research interests include computer vision and machine learning.

George will be studying the PhD at the University of East Anglia

Jacob Swindell

About me

My name is Jake, I have lived in the Lincolnshire area for the past 10 years and have recently completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of Lincoln.

I was introduced to the field of robotics through a summer project with LCAS at the University where I worked with the Tiago robot on a door opening problem that involved computer vision and manipulation. For my dissertation I went on to integrate a fleet management system with some Turtlebots and develop a web interface to interact with them.

I joined the CDT because I wanted to explore my interest in this field of study more and I believe that robotics can provide valuable solutions to the many interesting problems from the agricultural sector.

Research interests

My research interests include, mobile autonomy, manipulation and soft robotics.

Jake will be studying the PhD at the University of Lincoln

Liyou Zhou

About me

My name is Liyou and I joined the CDT in Sep. 2023. I have a background in autonomous driving and IoT software development. I have been a long time proponent and contributor to the ROS ecosystem. I am interested in exploring the emerging world of end to end machine learning in robotics through the CDT. I am eager to find out more about the agriculture domain area and the many opportunities for optimisation and disruption advanced robotics can bring. I look forward to meeting my fellow students and academics of the program.

Research interests

I am interested in SLAM, NERF and VLA models.

Liyou will be studying the PhD at the University of Cambridge

Omar Ali

About me

I joined the AgriFoRwArdS CDT because I am a very keen to research and develop Robotic technologies as I believe these can really help reduce the problems that arise in spaces in labour intensive roles. Agricultural technologies are particularly interesting due to the complexity of the tasks that arise due to the vast landscape, crops, and weather conditions. It is such a vital field as communities depend on regular farming for their sustenance, so technologies that allow this to be more efficient and consistent can also mean that this type of sustenance has the potential to become more affordable for everyone without compromising, maybe even improving, the quality.

I'm eager to apply my knowledge at Lincoln and engage with cutting-edge technologies. I intend for my PhD research to delve into fleet mobile robotics, aiming to enhance farm health and efficiencies. In my free time, I'm an avid web tech enthusiast, an archery enthusiast, a gamer, and a music lover. Plus, I'm a third-culture kid—guess where I'm from!

Research interests

My research interests include, fleet mobile robotics, autonomous systems, and soft robotics/manipulation.

Omar will be studying the PhD at the University of Lincoln

Omar Faris

About me

I am Omar Faris, and I am from Jordan. I have BSc & MSc degrees in Mechanical Engineering. After the MSc, I spent two years at Khalifa University as a Research Associate where I worked on projects related to soft robotics and event-based tactile sensing. I chose to join the CDT because it is an excellent chance to broaden my knowledge about robotics and apply it in agricultural applications, which can leave a great positive impact on the society. I will be studying my PhD at the University of Cambridge.

Research interests

I am interested in, soft robots, tactile sensing, neuromorphic event-based systems, grasping and manipulation.

Omar will be studying the PhD at the University of Cambridge

Robbie Cato

About me

Hi I’m Robbie, my background is in robotics and automation so I’m really excited to further my knowledge and skillset at the CDT. I’m going to carry out my studies at the University of Lincoln where I did my first MSc. My main interests are human-robot interaction and autonomous decision-making / actions but I’m also really keen to explore the world of ethics and sustainability in regards to deploying robotics and autonomous systems.

Research interests

My research interests include, collaborative robotics, sensory feedback systems, smart-factories/farms, and robot/automation ethics.

Robbie will be studying the PhD at the University of Lincoln

Robert Stevenson

About me

I have always been interested in robotics and building things but have sometimes struggled to see the applications for robots for uses other than manufacturing. However, by joining the CDT I feel there will be plenty opportunities to explore this within agriculture.

I am also looking forwards to living in Lincoln, as it will mark the start of a new chapter in my life after I spent the last 4 years living in Norwich completing an MComp in Computer Science at UEA, during which I worked on two robotics related projects.

As I mentioned before “I have always been interested in robotics and building things” and that has not changed much because during my spare time I will be tinkering with some sort of electronics/robot related project with a more “recreational” focus.

However, when not tinkering with tech, I do like to spend some time listening and playing music, as I also play bass.

Research interests

I am interested in robotics, robot navigation, robot hardware/system design, and mobile autonomy.

Robert will be studying the PhD at the University of Lincoln

Sean Chow

About me

Through my interest in technology, I have developed a longstanding interest in robotics, computer science and engineering. My passion for these specific technologies has led me to research in computer vision, novel machine learning and artificial intelligence frameworks that drives innovation in robotic automation.

Prior to joining the CDT, I participated in a collaboration with Siemens Rail Automation where our team introduced a modern tracking and automated signaling solution experimented with GPS-R powered by the LoRa module to help bring down the fatality rate and cost for the southwest railways. I also worked as a lab technical assistant in data analyses for a coral research project in the State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution (SKLMP), City University of Hong Kong. This placement increased my awareness in the ever-increasing importance of computer vision in cutting edge environmental research.

More recently, I worked with AEL(HK) on the CLP critical auxiliary outage project and HKPC Biogas. I challenged myself by shouldering the design of a health and safety monitoring systems utilizing infrared thermography and Cmake’s machine learning face recognition capabilities, that helped in keeping work sites open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am now a PhD candidate at UEA's world leading Colour and Imaging lab with AgriFoRwArdS. With this incredible opportunity garner to a wide gamut of experience and knowledge, I wish to be a part of implementing advanced computing technology to the industry.

Research interests

My research interests include artificial intelligence, deep learning, computer vision, convolution neural networks, image classification, and AMR.

Sean will be studying the 4-year PhD at the University of East Anglia

Violet Mayne

About me

My name is Violet, I am originally from Brighton, and I joined the CDT in 2023. My primary research interests are in machine learning, explainable AI, and robot vision. Currently I am particularly engaged with deep feature extraction. Prior to joining the CDT, I studied an MComp (Integrated Master's in Computing Science) at the University of East Anglia where I will be returning to complete my PHD.

I chose to join the CDT because of my interests in machine learning research intersecting with robotics and how this can have a profound impact on the challenges currently facing agricultural production. I specifically wanted to study my PHD at UEA due to its expertise within the context of the CDT principally being in computer vision and artificial intelligence which I have particular interest in.

Research interests

I am interested in machine learning, explainable AI, and robot vision.

Violet will be studying the PhD at the University of East Anglia

Xu Xiaoxian

About me

One of the aspects I appreciate most about the CDT program in Lincoln is its provision of an additional year to prepare for my PhD, along with offering professional training in robotics and computer skills. I will be pursuing my PhD at the University of Cambridge, where I previously completed my Meng degree. I have a keen interest in agri-food robotics, particularly in the areas of soft robotics manipulation and control algorithms. During my leisure time, I indulge in Pilates and enjoy playing the marimba.

Research interests

My research interested include, soft robot manipulation and algorithm.

Xu will be studying the PhD at the University of Cambridge

CDT students attend international events

This summer the CDT students have been very busy attending various international events, and presenting their work at conferences across the world.

Bethan Moncur travels across Europe

Bethan Moncur, Cohort 3 Cambridge student, attended three international academic events over recent months; the ISPIM Innovation Conference, the Uncertainty Summer School (hosted by ETH Zürich), and the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. You can read all about Bethan's experiences in her article 'Bethan Moncur travels across Europe' on the Student Blog.

Rachel Trimble presents at the International Plant Pathology Conference in Lyon

By Rachel Trimble

I recently presented at the IPPC Remote Sensing and Plant Disease Epidemiology Workshop which took place on 19th and 20th August. This was part of the larger IPPC - International Plant Pathology Conference - in Lyon which covers all aspects of the science of plant disease.

The focus for the workshop was to bring together scientists from the world of plant disease modelling and from the world of remote sensing to explore how the challenges and opportunities for combining the two fields to give better overall management of plant disease. There were a mixture of basic talks giving an introduction to the two fields and presentations from researchers using modelling and remote sensing in different ways. I learnt a lot about the trade offs for remote sensing - how they need to balance spectral, temporal and spatial resolution - and how they detect plant disease primarily by looking at plant stress. On the epidemiology side, it was a great opportunity to meet some of the scientists who wrote the papers I have been citing in my work!

In common with many discussions in currently happening in agrirobotics, there was increasing interest in modelling for agricultural pests due to the predicted future impact of legislation around pesticides. It was also interesting to hear different perspectives on how smaller scale models could be combined to predict wider scale disease spread. I had the opportunity to present my work which looks at using reinforcement learning to optimise inspection for plant disease epidemics. This is bringing optimisation and planning techniques from the world of robotics into the context of plant disease control so it introduced some new concepts for many of the attendees and triggered a lot of questions!

Thanks to the AgriFoRwArdS CDT for helping to make this trip happen.

Haris Matsantonis presents in Israel

By Haris Matsantonis

The 13th International Conference on Clifford Algebras and their Applications in Mathematical Physics, from June 4th to June 9th, 2023 in Holon, Israel, was a great place for people from around the world who are interested in Clifford (Geometric) Algebras and their application to physics and engineering to share new ideas, learnings, and discoveries. I shared my work on the applications of Geometric Algebra in interpreting visual information for advanced computer vision technologies. Geometric Algebra is like equipping technology with a sophisticated set of eyes, allowing it to perceive and interpret visual elements with higher accuracy, which is essential in developing innovative technologies and has vast applications in various engineering domains where understanding visual data is crucial.

This conference was like a big, interactive classroom where experts could talk about their latest findings, learn from each other, and work together to solve complex problems in maths, physics and engineering. We all had the chance to explore many topics and discuss how Clifford Algebras can be linked to different branches of mathematical physics and engineering. Everyone left the conference enriched with new insights and ideas, and it is anticipated that the discussions and learnings from this conference will indeed pave the way for ground breaking discoveries and developments in the future. The heightened awareness and understanding of Geometric Algebra could act as a stepping stone to its widespread application, unlocking new potentials in technology and engineering sciences.

AgriFoRwArdS Events

The AgriFoRwArdS Conference

In mid September 2023, the AgriFoRwArdS CDT travelled to Cambridge for the AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference. This year though, was a conference with a difference!

The 3-in-1 event brought together the three UK robotics conferences below, into one big fusion event, which attracted many and diverse delegates from various career stages, backgrounds, and robotics research specialisms.

  • The Towards Autonomous Robotics Systems (TAROS) Conference
  • The AgriFoRwArdS EPSRC CDT Annual Conference
  • The Joint Robotics EPSRC CDT Annual Conference

You can read the official press release here, http://www.eng.cam.ac.uk/news/researchers-and-students-unite-conference-dedicated-autonomous-robotics-and-applications.

The conference brought together so many people from across the UK and the wider world, giving the opportunity to gain new knowledge, share best practices, exchange ideas, and overall advance the state of the art of robotics and autonomous systems as one community. As well as fantastic and interesting lectures, there were also opportunities for networking, including lunches in the Cambridge Engineering Department courtyard, a spectacular conference dinner at Robinson's College, and a smaller event networking event at the prestigious Corpus Christie College.

Left: Delegates gather for the Conference Dinner at Robinson's College. Right: Delegates attend a drinks reception in the courtyard of the prestigious and historic Corpus Christie College.

We are very pleased to be able to say that many of the CDT students and staff were successful in having their papers accepted for presentations, and that two of our fabulous students won awards! Massive congratulations to them.

Haris Matsantonis, a Cohort 2 student, who is currently studying his PhD (Design and implementation of a machine vision system to promote precision agriculture innovation using novel Geometric Algebra techniques) at the University of Cambridge, won the Best Computation award.

Roopika Ravikanna, a Cohort 1 student, who is in the final stages of her PhD titled 'Fleet Management of Autonomous Agricultural Robots with Human Awareness' at the University of Lincoln, won the award for the best application.

Left: Haris Matsantonis accepts the award for 'Best Computation'. Right: Roopika Ravikanna accepts the award for 'Best Application'.

In addition to the peer reviewed and selected papers, our AgriFoRwArdS students all produced and presented posters demonstrating the work they are currently undertaking as part of the CDT.

Left: Prabuddhi Wariyapperuma presenting her poster focused on her MSc work. Right: Will Rohde presenting his poster focusing on his PhD work.

Women* in Robotics UK @ TAROS 2023/Joint Robotics CDTs Conference - EDI Roundtable

By Women* in Robotics UK

This year at TAROS/Joint Robotics CDT conference, Women in Robotics UK ran their inaugural roundtable event, discussing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the context of Robotics and Engineering. The event, which was open to all, aimed to foster open discussions through small focus groups. Ella Maule and Isabelle Ormerod (Women in Robotics UK Leads, FARSCOPE CDT) chaired the session aimed to address several key questions:

  • Marginalised groups are over-stretched to represent EDI in the robotics space - how can we mitigate this?
  • How can we/ should we utilise safe spaces in male-dominated spaces such as robotics?
  • Are hiring quotas a necessary/just tool to promote EDI in robotics?
  • What does community look like to you? What other groups should we collaborate with?
Students and Academics join a round table discussion on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the context of Robotics and Engineering.

The event received an enthusiastic response, maxing out the room capacity. Participant engagement was enthusiastic and inquisitive, with attendees supporting that the small discussion groups made contributing to the event less intimidating. Across the discussed questions, common themes were: easier access to EDI training, the potential to include EDI and outreach as integral job responsibilities and advocating for discussions that include everyone in robotics. The topic of hiring quotas remained divisive. Attendees expressed support for the intended outcome of improving diversity in the workplace, but the discussion highlighted the need for transparency in their implementation.

The success of our roundtable event highlights the growing interest and need for intimate forums to discuss EDI. The format allowed diverse viewpoints and expertise to be brought together while affording everyone the opportunity to learn and interact with one another — qualities that we believe are vital for advancing EDI progress in robotics.

We extend our thanks to TAROS/Joint Robotics CDT conference organising committee which includes Agriforwards CDT Academic and administrative team for providing us with the platform to host this event at the conference, and we express our gratitude to all attendees for their invaluable contributions.

If you'd like to find out more about Women* in Robotics UK or get in contact all our information can be found at: https://linktr.ee/womeninroboticsuk

Welcome events occur across the consortium

MSc students welcomed to Lincoln

On Thursday 21st September 2023 the Lincoln team and students welcomed the new cohort to Lincoln and the AgriFoRwArdS CDT.

Cohort 5 students who were joining Lincoln for the MSc programme enjoyed a full week of induction activities during Lincoln Welcome Week, including our CDT event. Our Lincoln PhD students, and staff, joined the new students in enjoying yummy pastries while hearing an introduction from the CDT Director Prof Marc Hanheide.

Following the introduction by Marc, the new students heard a little about the current students research, and their experiences of the CDT and PhD study so far. Students were paired up and interviewed each other, in a new relaxed and informal approach to the quarterly progress meeting, covering a variety of topics, both research based and not. Topics included; what to do in Lincoln, collaboration with industry, wellbeing and support, time management, conducting research, and the CDT experience.

With opportunities to ask lots of questions of the current students, it certainly was a great opportunity for the new students to find out more about what they might expect of the next 4 years with the AgriFoRwArdS CDT.

Karoline, who presented as part of the event said,

I enjoyed the chatty format of the welcome event and hope everyone is settling in well at Lincoln. I look forward to hearing more about the new students’ projects soon.

We wish all the best to the new students, and cannot wait to see what exciting research they produce.

Cambridge welcomes the Cohort 4 students

Every September Cambridge opens its doors to welcome a new cohort of the AgriFoRwArdS CDT students. This time AgriFoRwArdS CDT Cambridge is joined by Cohort 4 students: Yi Zhang and Jack Bradley who have finished their MSc RAS and moved to do their research in Cambridge.

Yi will be running her research under supervision of Dr Fulvio Forni and Jack Bradley will continue his work under supervision of Dr Somenath Bakshi who joined the CDT last year.

Yi Zhang research title: Controller-based Reinforcement Learning in Robotics Manipulation
Jack Bradley’s research title: Bioreactor arrays for analysis and control of food production using genetically modified microbes.
Left: Jack Bradley presents on his work. Right: Yi Zhang presents on her work

The AgriFoRwArdS CDT Welcome event was held on Fri, 29 September, and was attended by current CDT students and supervisors. The Cambridge Academic team updated students on the CDT's new academic year, gave information on the CDT events and reminded about their rights and responsibilities.

The Welcome event concluded with a conversation about what new students can expect from their studies in Cambridge.

East Anglia to meet with their PhD students

Later in October, the current UEA students will meet with Academic Lead Prof Richard Harvey, the incoming Cohort 4 students (Afsaneh Karami, Andrew Simpson and Calvin John), and Cohort 5 student Sean Chow, who is undertaking a 4-year PhD at East Anglia.

Upcoming events and activities for 2023/24

The AgriFoRwArdS CDT provides an exciting and varied calendar of events for our students. Below is a snapshot of just some of the activities being arranged for the 2023/24 academic year.

  • Introduction to Agriculture; Opportunities and Challenges (12th October 2023) - Cohort 5 will attend the Lincoln Riseholme Campus for a training session covering an introduction to the role of current technologies in agriculture to help ground their research in real challenges and opportunities.
  • Quarterly PhD Research Progress Meeting (25th/26th January 2024) - CDT Students from Cohort 4 will present their PhD work so far to other CDT Students and Staff. We will hear about their first few months of study, and what they have planned for the future of their projects.
  • AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference 2024 (9th to 11th July 2024) - Held at the University of East Anglia.
  • AgriFoRwArdS CDT Summer School 2024 (Summer 2024) - Held at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands.
  • AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Days (January and April 2024) - These two student-led seminar days will be packed full of interesting talks and activities.
  • What Napoleon Boneparte can teach you about giving a scientific presentation (December 2023) - In this seminar Professor Gary Sutton from the University of Lincoln will discuss how to present complicated scientific data to a general audience.
  • Implementing Robotics into your Business (January 2024) - Training at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry.
  • Site visits to Industrial Partners (February 2024) - Further details coming soon!
  • Intellectual Property: What is it and why is it important? (March 2024) - Students will be introduced to the various types of Intellectual Property (IP) that exist and shown how to protect any IP they generate, whether through their PhD or in the wider world.
  • Visit to the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (March 2024) - CDT Training and development opportunity focused on the UK's largest manufacturing industry: "food & drink".

We want to make sure the training and events we are offering are geared towards our students interests. So students, if you have any suggestions for visits or training that you would like us to consider in 2023/24, please get in touch!

Meet the AgriFoRwArdS Team

Dr Luigi Occhipinti

Dr Luigi Occhipinti is a new addition to the Agriforwards CDT - Cambridge team.

Dr Luigi Occhipinti's current position is Director of Research in Graphene and Related Technologies and he serves as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Cambridge Graphene Centre.

Luigi will be supervising his first Agriforwards CDT student in 2024 – Dimitrios Paparas, whose PhD project opens interesting collaboration possibilities in academia as well as in industry.

Dr Luigi Occhipinti joined the University of Cambridge in April 2014. He developed science and innovation for more than 20 years in emerging technology areas for the post-CMOS roadmap, smart systems heterogeneous integration, polymer and printed electronics, advanced bio-systems and molecular diagnostics, advanced signal processing and nonlinear computation, advanced mechanical, optical and chemical sensor technologies, with focus on miniaturization and advanced packaging technologies for smart devices and products.

His main academic interests include sensors and integrated bio-systems for applications in health care, industrial sustainability, smart wearables and environmental monitoring. Luigi's research track record encompasses emerging nanomaterials, biocompatible and biodegradable devices and electronics manufacturing on flexible and stretchable substrates, and circular economy.

Luigi has authored and co-authored over 130 peer-review papers, 3 book chapters, 2 international standards and is inventor or co-inventor of more than 65 patent applications filed (46 patents granted, 9 as sole inventor). Google Scholar: H-index 26, i10-index 50, Citations >6875

He is co-editor of the Cambridge Elements Series on "Flexible and Large-Area Electronics" published by Cambridge University Press, and Chair of the IEEE International Conference on Flexible and Printable Sensor and Systems (FLEPS) Program. He is also Senior Member of the IEEE society.

Industry Partner News

Exciting opportunities for students with Agri-TechE

The CDT Institutions are all members of Agri-TechE, a network of farmers, technologists, researchers and business support. There are currently a couple of exciting opportunities to get involved with the network for students:

A fresh new look for the ECIF programme – designed for early career researchers and agriculturalists, full of free events and resources to help build your network and develop your career. Join the launch event online on 23rd October

Student bursaries and discounted tickets are available for the REAP Conference, where you can discover all things agri-tech! Featuring technology exhibition, farmer-led discussions with researchers, supply chain panel and keynotes from Defra and NFU, this is one not to be missed. 8th November in Newmarket – find out more.

Agri-Food and Robotics Research Continues

Universities of Lincoln and Cambridge win £4.9m EPSRC award

The Universities of Lincoln and Cambridge have been awarded a £4.9 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to help fund their drive to make the Lincolnshire and north Cambridgeshire (LINCAM) region a global innovation centre for agricultural technology (agri-tech).

Read more about this exciting agri-tech cluster, on the University of Lincoln website

AgriSound monitor pollinators at Riseholme

Pollination is one of the most important natural biological processes on our planet and an integral part of crop production. However, pollinators are declining globally due to a combination of agricultural intensification, climate change and disease, impacting both food security and biodiversity.

AgriSound, a tech company based in York, were one of the first Barclays Eagle Labs accelerator projects. They have developed low-cost hardware and software to monitor insect activity and biodiversity within a local environment. The company specialises in developing bioacoustics algorithms for analysing complex sound data to quantify bee activity which can be used to generate new insights into insect biodiversity and deliver precision pollination.

Acoustic sensors are deployed strategically across a site and use advanced sound analysis to detect local pollinator activity. Data is transmitted via a cellular data connection and results are made available by the accompanying web app.

The Lincoln Institute of Agri-food Technology has installed a number of these units across the Riseholme campus to help understand both pollinator levels and help build data sets that can be used across a range of crop and Agri-tech research in the future.

Another fruitful year on the University of Lincoln's strawberry farm

The University of Lincoln’s Riseholme campus is home to a scaled-down, commercial strawberry production unit used as a robotic trials area.

This is an invaluable asset used by multiple UKRI-funded projects focussed on finding AI and robotics solutions to challenges in farming and food production. The Strawberry farm supports the University’s ongoing work to improve productivity, efficiency, and sustainability through innovation. It also provides an industry-relevant space for research, industry partners and start-ups in a real-world test environment.

It's been another fruitful year on Strawberry farm. Since the first delayed picking on the 8th of June due to the long, cold spring the polytunnels have produced a total of 1892kg of edible fruit (as of the day of writing, the 18th of September). This total is split between 2 varieties 1074kg of Katrina and 818kg of Zara. Comparative to the previous year, these yields are up by 63% and 27% for Katrina and Zara respectively. It is expected that around 500kg of fruit is yet to be picked but this is heavily weather dependent, however, the current warm weather forecasts seem to make this quite achievable with an estimated final pick in early November. Due to the very low levels of pests and diseases throughout the season, the overall quality of the crops has been and remains very good.

When asked if he had anything to add about Riseholme strawberries Krystian Lukasik, the strawberry site's technical resources manager, had this to say,

I could write a book about them but who would like to read it!

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