EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Agri-Food Robotics: AgriFoRwArdS - Haihui Yan

Haihui Yan

  • University of Cambridge in collaboration with Dyson Farming

Research Interests

Haihui’s research interests include, mechanism design of robotic systems, vision and perception systems.


  • AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference (2021): Automatic Detection of Black Rot in Images of Grapes.
  • AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference (2022): 3D Printing Soft Robotic Grippers for Automated Strawberry Harvesting.

Other Activities and Outputs

  • Took part in the AgriFoRwArdS Summer School 2021 resulting in a co-authored presentation at the AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference 2021: Automatic Detection of Black Rot in Images of Grapes (in collaboration with Mohammed Terry-Jack, Grey Churchill, YoonJu Cho, Callum Lennox, Charalampos Matsantonis).
  • Winner of the Best Student Presentation award at the AgriFoRwArdS CDT Annual Conference 2022.

About me

I am fascinated by robotics and believe they will be revolutionary in improving many aspects of life, from sensing of soil quality to guided fertiliser application to harvesting fruit. My main area of interest lies in mechanism design of robotic systems, vision and perception systems.

MSc Project

Simulation of a Liquid Crystal Elastomer Robotic Gripper

This project will focus upon the simulation of a Liquid Crystal Elastomer (LCE) robotic gripper for soft fruit harvesting. The aim of this project is to investigate a suitable framework for the modelling and simulation of LCE grippers. Robotic gripper designs suitable for soft fruit harvesting will be generated and refined based on results from Finite Element Analysis (FEA). FEA can be used to simulate the traits of LCE and determine which designs are most suitable for soft fruit harvesting.

PhD Project

3D Printing Soft Robotic Grippers for Automated Strawberry Harvesting

In 2019, strawberries were the second most produced fruit in England dominating ~21% (141.6 thousand tons) of the market, but achieved the highest fruit value of 2.46 million pounds/thousand ton. However, strawberries are commonly harvested by hand, which is a very labour-intensive job. Moreover, there has been a consistent decline in the number of available pickers, in the autumn of 2019, UK farmers reported a 30 percent shortage in pickers. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a highly effective and smart or human-like strawberry harvesting design to meet this gap. The main challenges to strawberry robotic harvesting are bruising, abrasions and other mechanical damages of strawberries. To address these challenges a new solution is proposed, which involves the design of a gripper structure, allowing highly efficient harvesting of strawberries with no mechanical damages.

General rigid robotic grippers have been designed with pneumatic and hydraulic gripper solutions. However, it is often difficult to control the gripper precisely as they are rigid and non-compliant. Soft robotics offers more compliancy and flexibility. They are also 3D printable with more possible solutions.

3D printing of soft robotics has been extensively explored recently. These include a range of soft materials including Liquid crystal elastomers (LCE). They have a lot of potential to overcome current grippers’ problems. They are more flexible, lightweight and they are 3D printable. These characteristics maximise the potential these materials to produce a flexible and compliant gripper suitable for bruise-free strawberry harvesting.

This project will involve the design of a novel 3D printed robotic gripper targeted for strawberry harvesting. This will involve producing a specification for strawberry harvesting and using it to produce a design.

Haihui’s PhD project is being carried out in collaboration with Dyson Farming, under the primary supervision of Dr Sebastian Pattinson.