2023 – Celebrating another year of AgriFoRwArdS 

2023 has been a year full of exciting opportunities, remarkable research, and interesting activities. To celebrate the wonderful achievements of our students and supervisors, we look back at just a few of the highlights of the year.


The 3rd Cohort of AgriFoRwArdS Students graduate from the MSc Robotics and Autonomous Systems programme with flying colours!

The ceremony was held within the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral, and was followed by a celebration within the grounds of the historic Lincoln Castle.

The students all left Lincoln to begin their PhD research at their respective institutions the previous October, and so this was a lovely opportunity for them to come back together, celebrate their year of hard work, and share their PhD experiences so far.

You can read more about the graduation event, and the student’s experiences, on the Student Blog.

Also in January:


The AgriFoRwArdS Students all travelled to Lincoln to take part in the week long AgriFoRwArdS Summer (or Spring in this case) School, at the Riseholme Campus. Alongside the days filled with exciting challenges, there were also opportunities for networking, at the Spring School Dinner and social bowling. The activities themselves were inspired by this year’s ICRA Conference Competition (PUB-R), which has been created by teams at the University of Lincoln and University of Cambridge.

The CDT’s Spring School was a platform to develop knowledge needed for the competition. With students working together to develop a ‘robot kitchen’.

Watch a video summary of the event below.

Also in February:


The AgriFoRwArdS Entrepreneurship lectures came to a close with two final sessions.

In early March, Dr. Maggie Wilkinson and Dr. Nathalie Muller from Cambridge Enterprise spoke to the AgriFoRwArdS community about commercialisation and intellectual property (IP). The talk really highlighted the importance of thinking about the information students are sharing, and demonstrated the reasoning behind potential reluctance to talk about research in detail in public forums.

The series concluded with an interactive workshop ‘How to communicate effectively with industry contacts’. Run by Katie Bardes, who runs her own consultancy and is an associate executive coach with the Academy of Executive Coaching, the workshop aimed to teach students about the communication skills used to gather information effectively from industry experts, and to set up a successful conversation.

Also in March:


The students visited the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM), which is located at the University of Lincoln’s Holbeach Campus.

Students were met by CDT Co-Investigator and NCFM Deputy Director, Prof Mark Swainson, who gave them a tour of the facilities, including the Research and Development factory and the brand-new Centre of Excellence at the Holbeach Food Enterprise Zone.

The tour was followed by training covering topics including; food industry scale; opportunities for digitalisation; the future direction of food sector robotics; practical advice on working with the food manufacturing sector; and blending fundamental and applied research.

It was a really insightful day which reminded me of all the reasons I applied for AgriFoRwArdS – a passion for the food industry, the need to push for decarbonisation in manufacturing, and being surrounded by equally passionate people

Also in April:


Cohort 4 students were invited to attend Riseholme Campus to undertake their ‘Introduction to Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges’ training. These sessions provide an introduction to the role of current technologies in agriculture as well as hands on experience to help ground student research in real challenges and opportunities.

The sessions include;

Following classroom teaching students were then taken into the fields at Riseholme to apply what they have learnt.

Also in May:


This year AgriFoRwArdS visited the biggest robotics conference in the world, the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), which was held in London. The CDT were involved in various aspects of the conference, from hosting one of the competitions, presenting, and taking part in competitions and workshops.

Staff from the University of Lincoln and University of Cambridge came together to host one of the exciting competition challenges featured at ICRA. Teams were invited to test the design and control of their robots in the Preparation and dish Up of an English Breakfast with Robots (PUB.R) competition. The competition showcased the latest advancements in food handling and preparation, by challenging traditional robotics domains, including navigation, manipulation, and scene understanding, but also proposing novel scientific challenges, such as robotic food tasting, communication, creativity, and art.

AgriFoRwArdS Students from the University of Cambridge entered the competition, an entry which they began working on during the AgriFoRwArdS Spring School.

Watch the competition in the video below:

Also in June:


AgriFoRwArdS students travelled to Norwich to convene at the University of East Anglia for the July 2023 Quarterly PhD Progress Meeting.

Students from the University of East Anglia, and the UEA CDT Team, hosted the event, which saw presentations from the other PhD students (from Cambridge and Lincoln).

The progress meeting is always a fantastic opportunity for students to practice their presentation skills in a safe and supportive environment, gaining valuable feedback and insight from their peers. This time in particular, as students were asked to present PechaKucha (a storytelling format in which a presenter shows 20 slides for 20 seconds of commentary each). Although challenging to embrace a new presenting style, it was a great chance for students to develop a new skill alongside their fellow students.

Also in July:


Over the summer our Students went all over the world presenting at international conferences, and disseminating their research.

Cohort 3 Student Rachel Trimble travelled to Lyon in France to the 12th International Plant Pathology Conference (IPPC) Remote Sensing and Plant Disease Epidemiology Workshop. The workshop brought 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. As part of this workshop Rachel presented her talk ‘Integrating Reinforcement Learning and Epidemiological Models for Disease Control Optimisation with Limited Information’.

Cohort 2 Student Harry Rogers then flew half way around the world to New Zealand, where he was invited to present his research at the 19th International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (IEEE CASE 2023). His talk was titled ‘An Agricultural Precision Sprayer Deposit Identification System’ and the related paper was published in the Conference proceedings.

Also in August:


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 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. You can read the official press release here.

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 therefore have also been published in the proceedings), and that two of our fabulous students won awards! Massive congratulations to them.

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.

Also in September:


October saw AgriFoRwArdS Students and Academics involved in demonstrating the state of the art agri-food robotics research currently being completed at Lincoln at some really important visits to the University of Lincoln Riseholme campus.

Visitors included

Cohort 3 Student Xumin Gao has been particularly heavily involved in many of these visits, demonstrating the robotics he has been working with at Riseholme as part of his PhD research.

Also in October:


Our students attended the Croptec Show, an event which brings together people from across the agricultural industry to discuss current challenges and display the cutting edge in agricultural technology and innovation.

Students assisted the University of Lincoln on their stand, representing the AgriFoRwArdS CDT and discussing their work with the agricultural technology community. They then visited a the various stands, and speaking to exhibiters about their products/services and also the student’s own interests and project ideas.

A particular highlight for the students was meeting Kaleb Cooper from Clarkson’s Farm!

Also in November:


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.

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 2024.

 This year has been full of opportunity for our students, and we can’t wait to see what 2024 holds!