2022 – celebrating a year of AgriFoRwArdS

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


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 byDr Petra Bosilj), and ’Automation and Robotization of the Planting of the ‘Jersey Royal’ Potatoes’ (Elijah’s project supervised byDr Fumiya Iida). Read more about the trip to Jersey on the Student Blog.

Also in February…


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…


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…


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 increasedRead more about the Progress Meeting on the Student Blog.

Also in May…


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…


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…


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…


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…


Alongside researchers, academics and industry experts, AgriFoRwArdS CDT students Andrew Perrett andJames 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…


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 Taskwas 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…


And finally, the year was rounded off in December with a visit to Zero Carbon Farms! CDT students, Pat WichitwechkarnRachel TrimbleBethan MoncurAndrew 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…

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!