The University of Lincoln in the UK has announced what it says is a world first, the establishment of a Center for Doctoral Training (CDT) for agri-food robotics.
This new research institute will specialize in such areas as soft robotics for handling delicate food products and autonomous mobility in challenging environments.
The center has been founded in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia and has just been awarded a grant of £6.6 million (approx. USD $8.5 million). The money will provide funding and training for at least 50 doctoral students who will be supported by major industry partners including the National Farmers Union.
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.”
Professor Duckett went on to say that the center will address numerous challenges that have put the global food chain under pressure. They include climate change, political pressures and population growth.
One of the hopes for the new center is that it will plug a major knowledge gap regarding the use of robotics in agriculture. According to many experts, food and farming industries will be transformed in the coming years by robotic technologies, but only if there is sufficient expertise to take advantage of them.