LIAT Breakfast Briefing: ‘Who Pollinated Your Breakfast?’

The latest instalment of the LIAT Breakfast Briefing series is titled, ‘Who Pollinated Your Breakfast?’, with guest speakers from the University’s School of Life Sciences, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership and Vine House Farm.

There are also 3 BASIS CPD Points available for all attending the talk.

Held at Lincoln’s Riseholme Campus, from 8:30 am – 10:30 am, Thursday 28 March 2019. Breakfast will be served from 8:30 am, with talks and presentations commencing at 9:00 am.

The agenda can be viewed online.

Please RSVP to Emma Seamer:

Location: University of Lincoln, Riseholme Campus, Riseholme Hall, Lincoln, LN2 2LG.


Lincoln to host local agronomy company at farming seminar

The University of Lincoln’s Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT) is to host a learning and development seminar run by local agronomy services business, Assured Agronomy, on Tuesday 19th February 2019.

Topics of discussion will centre around the future of farming and changes in agriculture as the UK moves away from direct government support for land in future years.

Speaking at the event will be a variety of farming professionals, including LIAT’s own Dr Iain Gould and Catchment Advisor at Anglian Water, Kelly Hewson-Fisher.

Guests will be able to witness the pesticide handling and water management systems being trialled at Lincoln, along with the university’s fleet of agricultural robots.

The event will be held at:

Riseholme Campus, University of Lincoln, Riseholme, Lincoln LN2 2LG and the event is free to attend.

Further details and the agenda can be found online:

Lincoln to launch world’s first Centre for Doctoral Training in Agri-Food Robotics

A new advanced training centre in agri-food robotics will create the largest ever cohort of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) specialists for the global food and farming sectors, thanks to a multi-million pound funding award, it was announced today (Monday 4th February 2019).

The world’s first Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) for agri-food robotics is being established by the University of Lincoln, UK, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded £6.6m for the new Centre which will see a massive influx of high-level robotics expertise at a vital time for the agri-food industry. The CDT will provide funding and training for at least 50 doctoral students, who will be supported by major industry partners and specialise in areas such as autonomous mobility in challenging environments, the harvesting of agricultural crops, soft robotics for handling delicate food products, and ‘co-bots’ for maintaining safe human-robot collaboration and interaction in farms and factories.

Professor Tom Duckett, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Lincoln, is the new Centre Director. He said: “Automation and robotics technologies are set to transform global industries – within the UK alone they will add £183bn to the economy over the next decade. Agri-food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK – twice the scale of automotive and aerospace combined – supporting a food chain, from farm to fork, which generates a Global Value Added (GVA) of £108bn, with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry.

“However, the global food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions, and the demographics of an ageing population in advanced economies. Addressing these challenges requires a new generation of highly skilled RAS researchers and leaders, and our new CDT will be dedicated to delivering those expertise. It will be a real focal point for robotics innovation in the UK.”

At Lincoln, the CDT represents an important partnership between robotics researchers from the School of Computer Science’s Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) and agricultural experts from the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT), as they work together to combat these pressing issues facing the global food chain.

Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology, Professor Simon Pearson, said: ´It is widely agreed that robotics will transform the food and farming industries in the coming years, but there is still a major skills gap in this area. Working with our industry and academic partners to design the 50 PhD scholarships will enable us to expand the UK’s science and engineering base, delivering a flood of skills and expertise that will drive our food and farming industries into the future.”

The Centre brings together a unique collaboration of leading researchers from the Universities of Lincoln, Cambridge and East Anglia, located at the heart of UK agri-food business, together with the Manufacturing Technology Centre, supported by leading industrial partners and stakeholders from across the food, farming and robotics industries. These include John Deere, Syngenta, G’s Growers, Beeswax Dyson, ABB and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.

It is one of 75 new CDTs to be funded by the EPSRC (part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)) in what is hailed as one of the country’s most significant investments in research skills, designed to equip the UK with the next generation of doctoral level researchers it needs across the breadth of the engineering and physical sciences landscape.

UKRI’s Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Highly talented people are required to tackle key global challenges such as sustainable energy and cyber security and provide leadership across industries and our public services. Centres for Doctoral Training provide them with the support, tools and training they need to succeed, and the involvement of 1,400 project partners underlines how much industry and the charity sector value this approach.”

Dave Ross, CEO of the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (one of four Agri-Tech centres established by the UK government), said: “This exciting project has strong synergies with our existing academic partners and will help greatly in the development of advanced robotic and engineering technologies for the agri-food sector. Our consultation with industry continuously indicates that there is a critical shortage of highly trained robotics and autonomous system engineers to meet future anticipated demand. The PhDs resulting from this project will have a significant impact. We look forward to connecting the students with our wider industry and academic partners for mutual benefit.”

In the new CDT in Agri-Food Robotics, all 50 students will follow a common foundational year, studying on the new MSc Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Lincoln. Then 20 of the students will carry out their PhD studies at Lincoln, 20 at Cambridge, and 10 at UEA. The wide-scale engagement with industry will enable the students’ research to be pushed rapidly towards real-world applications in the agri-food industry.

Dr Fumiya Iida, Reader in Robotics at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, is the Centre’s Deputy Director. He said: “Agri-Food Robotics is an ideal research area where high-impact scientific challenges and industrial needs meet.  On the one hand, many real-world problems in the industry such as manual handling of crops and reliable recognition of food are still regarded as considerable scientific challenges that the world-leading experts are intensively investigating today. On the other, the solutions to these problems will impact the competitiveness of UK Agri-Food businesses.”

Professor Richard Harvey, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at UEA, added: “Agriculture remains an important and atavistic activity in the UK but it the most dangerous of all the main UK industry sectors. Given that, isn’t it astonishing that so much effort is devoted to robots for driving and delivering parcels to your door? This project will initiate a new movement to build robots to handle the unpleasant, difficult and repetitive aspects of farming. At UEA our expertise is in Computer Vision which is making computers that see. We’d like to build robots that can see when an ear of corn has ripened or be able to measure the amount of sunlight falling on a field of wheat or to tell when beans are ready for picking. This is blue skies research with an East of England flavour and we look forward to developing new systems that handle the challenge of being on a farm.”

Original article:

Prof Pearson to Discuss the Future of UK Agriculture in Inaugural Lecture

The University of Lincoln’s Professor Simon Pearson will be delivering his Inaugural Professorial Lecture on Wednesday 13th February 2019.

A précis of his talk, ‘The Future of UK Agriculture’:

No one can avoid the impact of Agriculture. It creates the food we eat, is a cornerstone of the rural economy and society but has a profound impact on the environment; consuming huge amounts of our natural resources. These impacts are conspicuous in Lincolnshire where 21% of the economic output is associated with agri-food. In addition, policy changes post-Brexit will have a profound effect on agriculture across the UK and in Lincolnshire. This county alone receives £128m of farm support from the Common Agricultural Policy and this is at risk. This lecture will provide an overview of the evolution of agriculture in the UK and provides perspectives on key future challenges, impacts of modern technology and how it and the landscape may evolve in the future.

The talk, organised by the Lincoln Institute for Advanced Studies will be held on campus in the Steven Langton Lecture Theatre, with registration from 5:30 pm for a 6 pm start.

Guests can book a seat online

Precision pest control: smartphone app is the farmer’s newest weapon in crop protection

Scientists are creating a new smartphone app to help farmers tackle the pests destroying their crops, and it could soon have a major impact on the way information about the natural world is gathered, stored and accessed worldwide.

The team of researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, is designing and building the specialist app to help farmers in hot climates identify and record the spread of locusts on their land.

By recognising locusts through the smartphone’s camera, the app will be able to identify the stage of the insect’s growth and record its location through the phone’s IP address. This information can then be accessed by the farmer so that they can use pesticides more accurately and to target the insects in the early stages of their lifespan, significantly reducing the amount of crop damage.

This targeted approach could also reduce pesticide residue levels, leading to increased food safety while maintaining food security, and reduce environmental pollution, protecting nearby water systems.

“Each year, approximately 18 million hectares of land are damaged by locusts and grasshoppers, impacting hugely on farmers and their productivity,” explains Dr Bashir Al-Diri from the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln. “Their monitoring techniques currently rely on field surveys by people through digging insect eggs, but this information only helps farmers to make mid and long term forecasting decisions and can delay effective management measures.

“By digitally recording the exact number, age and location of locusts, we hope this new app will put more knowledge and more power into the hands of the farmers. They will be able to predict insect population and spread, and act quickly and accurately to save their crops.”

Dr Al-Diri and his team of computer scientists work with the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT) at the University of Lincoln, which aims to support and enhance productivity, efficiency and sustainability in food and farming through research, education and new technology.

This study is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s COSMIC P&D: Pest and Disease Emergence Prediction and Control for Sustainable Agriculture (PADEPSA) project and a further Official Development Assistance Institutional Award, which supports cutting-edge research addressing the problems faced by developing countries.

The team has gathered more than 10,000 images of locusts in various stages of growth to train the system behind the app. Researchers travelled to China to gather images and videos on location so that the app can recognise a variety of terrain and plant growth, and they have also built specialist facilities in Lincoln to house locusts from their earliest stages of life through to adulthood. By observing the locusts 24 hours a day, the team has built a huge data set to inform their app, and this collection of thousands of images and videos – the first of its kind in the world – will also be a valuable resource for the wider scientific community.

With its advanced computer vision technology, the developers hope that the app framework will also be used for a wide range of other applications in the future to capture and document information about the natural world. For example, it could easily be adapted to help individuals identify plant diseases and access expert advice on how to combat them, or to digitally capture the number and type of birds and wildlife in specific locations as part of national and international surveys.

Dr Al-Diri said: “There are already many major surveys of birds and wildlife which invite the public to manually take note of the animals they see in their garden, and there is no reason that the framework behind this app couldn’t be used to enhance those surveys. Our ultimate aim is to see the creation of a global digital image and knowledge library, so that farmers on their land and people in their gardens can become better connected with the world’s scientific community.”

The research is carried out in collaboration with partners at the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Loughborough University and the University of Leicester.

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