EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Agri-Food Robotics: AgriFoRwArdS - Andrew Simpson

Andrew Simpson

  • University of East Anglia

Research Interests

My interest in robotics and artificial intelligence have never felt more appropriate than now; applied to the field of agriculture and food production in an era of rapid climate change.  I feel incredibly privileged to be part of a group dedicated to finding real-world solutions that could help bring about measurable change for oursand the upcoming generations – and the ecosystems within which we co-exist with other life.  My focus may change as I move through this programme, but right now I am most inspired by holistic designs of agricultural robots that have multiple modes of operation, encompassing existing as well as new sensory capabilities.


  • Scaling the Spheres: Exploring the Impact of Physical Size on the Performance of Spherical Robots in Agricultural Settings @ The Towards Autonomous Robots and Systems (TAROS) Conference 2023 / CDT Annual Conference / Joint Robotics CDT Conference (September 2023)

About me

I have spend most of my adult life in East Anglia, Cambridge and Newmarket.  My graduate and postgraduate education was tailored very much towards computing, AI and cognitive sciences, however I quickly discovered education so until very recently I was part of a team developing surgical e-learning solutions for the Norwich Medical School at UEA.  As a passionate advocate of environmental change, I realised I needed to change my career path – to help contribute to the fight against climate and ecological damage which is why I applied for this programme – it brings my interests in AI together with my environmental motivations. 

I have found an amazing opportunity to live in a caravan on a farm near Lincoln for the masters year of the programme which should be interesting (…sometimes cold I suspect) but perhaps an opportunity to put some theory into practice; the farmer seems very forward-thinking.  Following that, I will be back at UEA for the PhD which has particular expertise in computer vision and other sensory technologies.   

I hope well before this programme is complete, I – like many on this programme – will know more about where I fit. Right now, I envisage myself running a consultancy, helping farmers and land managers utilise powerful on-the-ground technologies to make food production more efficient, use fewer resources and restore biodiversity across the UK and hopefully, global landscapes. 

MSc Project

Scaling the Spheres: Exploring the Impact of Physical Size on the Performance of Spherical Robots in Agricultural Settings

Agricultural automation has been dominated by traditional machinery on vast, irregular spaces and changeable conditions. This research proposes to explore the potential of spherical robots, a format largely unexplored in agriculture but considered viable in other terrains like space exploration. The study focuses on understanding how physical scale influences spherical robot performance in varied agricultural environments. The research will involve the design and development of spherical robot prototypes of varying scales and testing these under typical farm conditions to build a predictive model for determining optimal scales of spherical robots for specific tasks.

PhD Project

Designing Scalable Robotic Systems for Next-Generation Agriculture: A Technological Perspective

In response to global warming and dwindling resources for agriculture – including land and waterthis research envisions a world where farms are aided by innovative robotic helpers, co-designed by technologists and the farmers themselves. These robots, which are designed to be ultra-affordable and scalable, are tailored to nurture every crop, ensuring they flourish through environmentally conscious practices. Merging the advantages of scalable and adaptable technology, this open-source initiative aims to offer tools that anyone and everyone can refine and enhance. Whether for expansive fields or a compact greenhouse, the focus will be on optimising yields and safeguarding our planet’s precious resources. But it is more than just achieving healthier crops; it is a proactive step towards precision management of our finite resources, making sustainable agriculture both affordable and within our reach.

Andrew’s PhD project is being carried out under the primary supervision of Prof Richard Harvey.