I think we can all agree that this year has been absolutely packed with exciting opportunities, remarkable research, and interesting events. So to celebrate the incredible achievements in 2022, we are looking back at just a fraction of its highlights!
Beginning all the way back in January, Cohort 3 students Bethan Moncur, Samuel Carter, and Garry Clawson, visited esteemed AgriFoRwArdS CDT partner, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, where they undertook the ‘Implementing Robotics into Industry’ training. The MTC acts as a bridge between academia and industry, and is intended to take emerging technologies into real world environments! The training focused on this transition and gave the students an understanding as to what considerations and business insights are required when implementing robotic systems in to industry.
Mike Wilson, MTC Chief Automation Officer, and Philip Jackson, MTC Technology Specialists, hosted and presented the very well-received training; with students commenting on the fact that “getting first-hand experience from expert practitioners of what the pre-work requirements are for implementing robotics into working environments, is crucial to ensuring that deployments meet the scope of the challenge”. Students also said “The MTC was a real eye opener for seeing examples of manufactured components using the state-of-the-art manufacturing methods and feel a lot more confident when it comes to explaining the benefits of implementing automation in the agricultural sector”. Read more about the MTC training on the Student Blog.
I think we can all agree, this was an excellent start to 2022!
Also in January
- The Poinsettia Hackathon competition, which was launched in December 2021, concluded and the winners were announced. The Hackathon was run by the Lincoln Agri-Robotics (LAR) team and AgriFoRwArdS CDT.
- The CDT Students met online to present their work to each other, and to CDT academics, at the Quarterly Research Progress meeting. Cohort 2 were the ones to present this time, taking us through their first months of PhD study, what they had achieved so far, and what the were planning for their future research.
Cohort 2 students Bradley Hurst and Elijah Almanzor, flew out to the stunning island of Jersey to visit their Industry Partner Jersey Farmers Union. This was the second visit as part of their ongoing PhD research, where they are working to create a fully autonomous potato planting solution, which aims to fill the gap left by the rising costs of manual labour required for hand planting. The visit enabled the students to observe the full planting operation to further inform their PhD research projects, titled ‘Active Robot Perception for Automated Potato Planting’ (Bradleys project supervised by Dr Petra Bosilj), and ’Automation and Robotization of the Planting of the ‘Jersey Royal’ Potatoes’ (Elijah’s project supervised by Dr Fumiya Iida). Read more about the trip to Jersey on the Student Blog.
Also in February…
- Cohort 1 and 2 students held a Q&A session for Cohort 3 students, which covered their upcoming transition from MSc to PhD, and allowed the students to share their thoughts and experiences with each other.
- We heard from Mark Ryan, Digital Ethics Researcher at Wageningen Economic Research in the monthly AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Series.
- Students had the opportunity to join Prof Gregory Sutton at the University of Lincoln for a training session focused on presentation skills. The session, titled ‘What Napoleon Bonaparte can teach you about giving a scientific presentation’ gave students the tricks and traps of presenting ones work, with a focus on the ubiquitous mistakes that are made by people as they start a scientific career.
Moving swiftly in to March, students from Cohort 1 and 3 came together to take part in the British Science Week open day event, which was held in the beautiful Isaac Newton Building at the University of Lincoln. The open day was designed to give both pre-university students and the general public, the opportunity to get involved in a multitude of activities, and to offer an insight in to the future of science, as well as higher education study.
More than 100 students visited the open day, and had the chance to get inspired by engaging with robots and taking part in the various demonstrations given by the CDT students. Additionally, overwhelmingly positive feedback was received for the fantastic keynote speech by AgriFoRwArdS CDT Director, Prof Marc Hanheide, entitled ‘Robots in the Wild’.
A big congratulations to everybody involved, who made this event so memorable and successful! You can read more about the students experience of British Science week on the Student Blog.
Also in March…
- The CDT hired our fabulous Student Digital Content Creator. Hannah Courtney is an absolute asset to the CDT Team (and thank you to her for helping write this blog post!).
- CDT staff and students met with prospective students for the last AgriFoRwArdS Open Day of the academic year. A presentation was given by CDT Director Prof Marc Hanheide, followed by questions from the audience given to a panel of staff and students.
- We heard from Dr Ayse Kucukyilmaz, Assistant Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Nottingham University in the monthly AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Series.
- Kyle Fogarty presented twice at the EPSRC CDT in Modelling of Heterogeneous Systems (HetSys) Computational Tool Kit seminar Series.
- The University of East Anglia provided our students with an interesting training session on Intellectual Property. The session included an introduction to the various types of Intellectual Property (IP) that exist and how to protect any IP generated.
- Students were given the opportunity to attend ‘Navigating Online Meetings with Confidence’ training, which was developed alongside the University of Lincoln Library team. The workshop aimed to provide those who were unsure about how to navigate an online meeting, with some tips and tricks for making the most of their experience.
- Amie Owen was a keynote speaker at the SOFHT Innovation Day, held at York Biotech Campus. Amie’s presentation was titled ‘Intelligent automation for hygiene maintenance in food production settings’.
- Will Rohde presented his poster ‘Precision Agriculture for Iceberg Lettuce’ at the Internal University of Cambridge Division F Conference.
Founded in 1972, the Douglas Bomford Trust (DBT) holds the purpose of advancing knowledge, understanding practice, and competence in the application of engineering technology, to achieve sustainable agricultural, food and biological systems for the benefit of the environment and mankind. Working with the CDT, the trust is a highly engaged Insdutry Partner, currently supporting Cohort 3 student Callum Lennox, with his work on precision spraying.
The stunning University of Lincoln Riseholme Campus hosted the DBT Board of Trustees for their bi-annual meeting in April. This acted as a fantastic opportunity to share both new and emerging technologies, whilst also enabling the trustees and students to discuss their research and applications! Read more about the DBT visit to Riseholme on the Student Blog.
Also in April…
- CDT Students took part in a consultation with the Eleanor Glanville Centre to further the EDI Strategy for the CDT.
- Some of the students visited the Ladybower Reservoir, located in the Upper Derwent Valley in Derbyshire for an AgriFoRwArdS CDT Student Easter Social Hike.
- Paul-David Zuercher visited Singapore to present his paper ‘Optimising virtual reality training in industry using crowdsourcing‘ at the 12th Conference on Learning Factories 2022.
- Jack Foster presented to industry visitors from the James Dyson Foundation. His presentation, titled ‘Uncertainty-Guided Collaboration for Multi-Agent Precision Agriculture’ was given at Jack’s University of Cambridge College, Corpus Christie.
- Grzegorz Sochacki co-authored a paper titled ‘Sensorized Compliant Robot Gripper for Estimating the Cooking Time of Boil-Cooked Vegetables‘ which was published in the International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems Proceedings.
The Quarterly PhD Research Progress Meeting is rotated across each of the three collaborating universities (Lincoln, East Anglia and Cambridge), and in May it was time to travel to the University of Cambridge. The meeting gives the students the opportunity to experience presenting to a research group, as well as giving each other insights into how their research is being conducted. This meeting was particularly special because it was the first time all our students and some of their respective supervisors were able to meet in person (due to covid-19 restrictions). This particular session went down extremely well with Mazvydas Gudelis of Cohort 2, who commented “Never in a million years would I have thought that I would get to present my work at the University of Cambridge. Just by doing this I feel like I have already achieved so much, my parents are super proud of me and my confidence at conveying my research to other academics has increased” Read more about the Progress Meeting on the Student Blog.
Also in May…
- The AgriFoRwArdS Team received prestigious acknowledgement, as ‘Highly Commended’ for Support Service of the Year, at the University of Lincoln Students Union (SU) Awards. Nominations were made by the students themselves, making this award very highly valued by the AgriFoRwArdS Team.
- We heard from Ali Capper from the National Farmers Union National Horticulture & Potatoes Board in the monthly AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Series.
- The MSc students took the opportunity to celebrate the end of the semester with a Picnic in the Park.
- Cohort 3 students visited the Riseholme Campus to take part in Day 1 of the Introduction to Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges, Training. They heard from Simon Goodger and Dr Iain Gould, who covered topics within the area of soils and weeds.
- Grzegorz Sochacki co authored a paper titled ‘Mastication-Enhanced Taste-Based Classification of Multi-Ingredient Dishes for Robotic Cooking‘ which was published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI.
In June academics, CDT students and other affiliated students, and industry partners, came together for the Annual CDT Conference. This was especially exciting as it was the first in-person conference for the CDT. Hosted by the University of Lincoln, the aim of the conference was to share research, ideas, experiences, innovation, and technology; with opportunity for delegates to expand their knowledge, strengthen their practice and facilitate collaborations and pathways to impact.
With around 90 delegates attending over the two days, this event was the largest CDT social event of the year! The event was an astounding success, with CDT cohort 1 student Roopika Ravikanna commenting that “As one of the first students in CDT Agriforwards, taking part in the annual conference and donning a variety of roles in the same felt like belonging to the hosting party of a family function. I found it a memorable couple of days in my CDT journey”. Read more about the Conference on the AgriFoRwArdS News Feed.
Also in June…
- We heard from Prof Megan Povey, Professor of Food Physics at the University of Leeds, in the monthly AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Series.
- Cohort 1 student Willow Mandil visited New York to present his spotlight presentation ‘Action Conditioned Tactile Prediction: case study on slip prediction’ at the Robotics’ Science and Systems Conference (RSS 2022).
- Alongside other PhD students at Lincoln, Garry Clawson, Roopika Ravikanna, and Callum Lennox took part in RoboLab Live, the flagship event of the UKRAS UK Festival of Robotics. The event is a simultaneous livestream showcase where research groups come together to demonstrate the cutting edge of robotics. With more than two and half thousand viewers watching live via YouTube, the event is focused on presenting exciting, unusual and engaging demonstrations that are accessible to members of the public and young students alike. Read more about UKRAS RoboLab Live on the Student Blog.
- Staff and students visited the Algal Innovation Centre in Cambridge to find out all about the Centre for Excellence for algal research. The centre covers the process of algal growth from strain selection and improvement, through harvesting and processing, to development of underpinning technology and engineering solutions.
- Students took part in an outreach day hosted at the beautiful Riseholme Campus to introduce students from the Boston College: Institute of Technology to robotics within agri-tech.
- Many of the CDT Students visited Bristol to attend the Joint Robotics CDT Conference, which this year was hosted by the FARSCOPE CDT at the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. Harry Rogers presented his poster titled ‘Explainable Droplet Recognition System for Precision Sprayer Applications’ at the event.
On the 4th July the AgriFoRwArdS Students all travelled to Norwich to attend the first in-person CDT Summer School. This week long residential summer school was hosted by the University of the East Anglia and in collaboration with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).
The aim was to bring all CDT students together within an enriching week of educational workshops, to enable students to engage with the CDT, whilst also expanding and exploring their skillset within the robotics and autonomous systems industry. The group were challenged to build a robot which could catch, sort, and cook fish and chips! Read more about the summer school on the Student Blog.
Also in July…
- Roopika Ravikanna took part in the return of the TEDx Brayford Pool Salon series along with the Lincoln Institute of Agri-food and Technology. The event explored the theme The Way We Eat, with an aim to help people understand where our food comes from, what food sovereignty means, and what investigators and researchers are doing to ensure food is kept on our tables for years to come. This was a brilliant opportunity for Roopika, and the BrayfordPool Tedx team, to demonstrate, and involve the public, with the work they do and how it’s positively impacting society!
- Amie Owen presented her paper ‘Towards the Application of Multi-Agent Task Allocation to Hygiene Tasks in the Food Production Industry‘ at the International Conference on Practical Applications of Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (PAAMS) Conference in Italy.
- We heard from Prof Jacky Baltes from the National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) as part of the monthly AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Series.
- Jack Foster visited the Dyson facilities and presented his work ‘Uncertainty-Guided Collaboration for Multi-Agent Precision Agriculture’ to the team, who support him in his PhD study.
- James Bennett, Kyle Fogarty, Bethan Moncur and Garry Clawson worked together on a paper titled ‘Towards open source hardware robotic woodwind: an internal duct flute player‘, which was presented at the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) 2022 in Limerick, Ireland.
Students Rachel Trimble, Grey Churchill, Garry Clawson, Xumin Gao, and James Bennett had the pleasure of visiting Stocks Farm and Lower Hope Estates. Situated on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border, the visits to these locations provided a great chance for the students to explore a working farm, pack-house and distribution facility, enabling them to hear first-hand from those involved in the sector.
Owned by the Capper Family, Stocks farm consists of 100 acres of hops and 100 acres of apples, with its outstanding natural beauty the farm is 200 years old and grows award winning British Hops and Apples. Ali Capper extended the invite to students when she presented during the May AgriFoRwArdS seminar series. The trip was a great success, allowing students to see first-hand the day-to-day technical challenges faced in the sector.
Also in August…
- Amie Owen presented her poster ‘Towards Autonomous Task Allocation Using Social Rob Team in a Food Factory’ while Garry Clawson presented his poster (which was created by himself, Nikolaos Tsagkopoulos and Samuel Carter) ‘Sub-SPARC: Investigation of Imperfect Teachers’ at UKRAS 2022: “Robotics for Unconstrained Environments hosted by the University of Aberystwyth. Garry also gave an oral presentation, titled ‘Blockchain Crop Assurance and Localisation’, and Callum Lennox was involved in the publication of another presentation titled ‘Localising Weeds Using a Prototype Weed Sprayer’. It was wonderful to see so much AgriFoRwArdS representation at the event!
- A panel of current students met with incoming students to discuss their experiences in the CDT at the ‘Welcome to our new cohort’ event, an online student-led activity by our existing students for the students joining AgriFoRwArdS in September.
Taking place a little closer to home, on the beautiful Riseholme Park Farm, the AgriFoRwArdS CDT Cohort 3 students completed their Introduction to Agriculture training on the 5th September. Day two of the training, which was the companion to the first Introduction to Agriculture day titled ‘Soils and Weeds’ which took place in May, focused on the role of the farm and its annual cycle.
Students were introduced to the initiatives that are taking place to help shape the farm, this was incredibly engaging as it ranged from grounds management, to tracking and identification of which animals are inhabiting which locations. Along with witnessing how technology and the use of big data is allowing Riseholme Campus to improve welfare for the animals, students discovered how it also helps with the running of the farm.
Also in September…
- The AgriFoRwArdS CDT continued to grow, with our 4th Cohort of students joining us. We greeted the new MSc students with a welcome event to give them opportunity to meet with current students and hear about their research.
- Our wonderful 3rd Cohort of students completed their year of hard work by handing in their final MSc project dissertations.
- Cohort 1 student Karoline Heiwolt presented her poster titled ‘Temporal Registration of Plant Parts in 3D’ and gave a spotlight presentation at the IPPS Phenotyping Symposium in the Netherlands.
- Roopika Ravikanna featured on the 19th episode of the UKRAS Robot Talk Podcast, speaking about farm robots, fruit-picking and human-robot interaction.
- Paul-David Zuercher co-authored a paper titled ‘Gamification intensity in web-based virtual training environments and its effect on learning‘ which was published in IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies.
- The September edition of FS&T (Volume 36, Issue 3) featured a few familiar faces, as Kate Smith (CDT Project Manager) and Marc Hanheide (CDT Director) described the objectives and achievements of AgriFoRwArdS! You can read the full article via PDF or online.
Alongside researchers, academics and industry experts, AgriFoRwArdS CDT students Andrew Perrett and James Heselden took part in a cross research group demonstration of the UKRI funded Robot Highways project! Robot Highways is a £2.6M project funded by Innovate UK, it is taking place over a 5 year period and is a vision for the future of soft fruit farming. Cohort 4 student Andrew Perret said that “As a student, having the opportunity to work on the Robot Highways project, alongside experts in their field, has not only strengthened my appreciation for the subject, but has taken book theory and turned it into a useful practical experience”, so it’s safe to say this day was a great success and valuable learning opportunity for our students!
Also in October…
- Recruitment started for the 5th Cohort of CDT students, who will join the CDT in October 2023.
- Our 3rd Cohort embarked on the PhD journey, moving to their respective university’s and beginning their 3 years of research.
- We heard from Dr Letizia Mortara, Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, in the monthly AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Series.
- Amie Owen co-authored a paper titled ‘Towards the Application of Multi-Agent Task Allocation to Hygiene Tasks in the Food Production Industry‘ which was published in Highlights in Practical Applications of Agents, Multi-Agent Systems, and Complex Systems Simulation.
- Haihui Yan and Jack Foster gave an insight in to their PhD work with Dyson in this fantastic and informative video.
In November student Alex Elias had the opportunity to attend the inaugural East Midlands ECR Robotics and Autonomous Systems Networking Event organised in collaboration with the University of Lincoln, University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, where his work titled “Exploring Trust Toward TIAGo’s Behavior During the Completion of an Agriculture-Related Task” was displayed. This event aimed to create a network of early career researchers from various disciplines by bringing them together, to both build new relationships and hone their academic abilities. The event also enabled the researchers to build new research teams and therefore encouraged an enthusiastic, healthy research culture. A big congratulations are in order for Alex for presenting his amazing work!
Also in November…
- Alex Elias attended a workshop on the integration of net zero and responsible research and innovation in designing agri-robotic technologies.
- CDT staff and students met with prospective students for the first Open Day of the academic year. A presentation was given by CDT Director Prof Marc Hanheide, followed by questions from the audience given to a panel of staff and students.
- We heard from Prof Harold Thimbleby, See Change Digital Health Fellow at Swansea University, in the monthly AgriFoRwArdS Seminar Series.
- The AgriFoRwArdS Entrepreneurship Lecture Series began, with ‘Setting up a new venture and finding sources of funding’ by Brian Corbett & Alex Smeets.
- The AgriFoRwArdS Entrepreneurship Lecture Series continued with Guest entrepreneur speaker: Ben Scott-Robinson, Founder & CEO of The Small Robot Company.
- Haris Matsantonis presented as part of an RDC course, with presentation titled ‘Geometric Algebra and its applications to robotics, and more specifically how it can be used for the reconstruction of a 3D scene structure from images; an active research topic in computer vision’.
And finally, the year was rounded off in December with a visit to Zero Carbon Farms! CDT students, Pat Wichitwechkarn, Rachel Trimble, Bethan Moncur, Andrew Simpson and William Rohde, along with staff from the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering, saw the latest hydroponic systems and LED technology that allows the farm to grow perfect, pesticide-free crops using 100% renewable energy, 33 metres below the bustling streets of Clapham, London! This fascinating facility gave students the incredible opportunity to ask questions and learn all about the growing process taking place in a 1940’s war-time subterranean bunker. Read more about the Zero Carbon Farms visit on the Student Blog.
Also in December…
- Willow Mandil was co author of a paper titled ‘Proactive slip control by learned slip model and trajectory adaptation‘ which was presented at The Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL) in Auckland New Zealand.
- Garry Clawson received confirmation that he would be presenting his work ‘A Technology Readiness Level for Blockchain’ at the 38th ACM/SIGAPP Symposium on Applied Computing, and his paper ‘Applications of Distributed Ledger Technologies in Robotics’ at the 2023 IEEE/SICE International Symposium on System Integrations (SII 2023).
- CDT staff and students at all three universities got together to celebrate the festive season and the successful year!
- We received confirmation that the 3rd Cohort of Students all passed their MSc with flying colours! Congratulations to them!
We would like to thank all of our students for their continued hard work over the last year. The AgriFoRwArdS CDT are proud of each of you, and are looking forward to what you will do in 2023.
This year has been full of opportunity for our students, and we can’t wait for 2023 to be even better!