Just as tractors and combine harvesters took over the reins from horse-pulled machinery in the early 20th Century, farmers and food manufacturers today are turning to new technology to stay ahead of global demand.
The University of Lincoln is leading the way forward, spearheading the development of next generation robots for agri-food production which will help streamline and maximise processes throughout the entire food chain, and has secured funding of £6.9 million from the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to deliver a massive influx of high-level robotics expertise at a vital time for the agri-food industry.
Working in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia, the University of Lincoln will open the world’s first Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in agri-food robotics. Led by Professor Tom Duckett, it will provide training for at least 50 doctoral students, who will be supported by major industry partners and specialise in research areas such as autonomous mobility in challenging environments, the harvesting of agricultural crops, soft robotics for handling delicate food products, and ‘co-bots’ for maintaining safe human-robot collaboration and interaction with human co-workers in farms and factories.
Professor Tom Duckett
It is widely agreed that robotics will transform the food and farming industries in the coming years, but there is still a major skills gap in this area. The world is waiting for a new generation of highly skilled RAS researchers and leaders to combat the pressing issues facing the global food chain, and our new CDT will be dedicated to delivering those expertise. It will be a real focal point for robotics innovation in the UK.
The University will also be creating the first global centre of excellence in agri-robotics research after securing significant funding from the UK Government's Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund through Research England. Lincoln agri-robotics will ve established as a major new research centre being together world-leading expertise in robotics, artifical intelligence, and agriculture, based on the site of the University's working farm. The funding recognises the University's committment to supporting farms of the future and will enable its researchers to scale up their work in tackling pressing issues facing the global food chain.
Meet the Expert
Professor Tom Duckett
School of Computer Science
Tom Duckett is Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems and leads the University's Centre for Doctoral Training in agri-food robotics.