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Economics of precision livestock farming technologies in dairy systems PhD studentship (36 months funding

Land, Farm and Agri-business Management Department

As per advert
Closing Date:   Thursday 12 September 2019
Interview Date:   To be confirmed
Reference:  RD-PHD-40KB



There is an increasing demand for livestock products from emerging economies and increasing pressure on livestock systems to improve their efficiency of production and reduce their environmental footprint.  Precision livestock farming (PLF) has emerged as a package of technology, process and decision support that can create a substantial step-change in livestock production systems in meeting the challenges and capturing opportunities.  PLF is defined as the management of individual livestock by continuous automated real-time monitoring and control of production, health and animal well-being, and environmental impact. With the ongoing development of cost reduction in sensors and their applicability to capturing diverse data, the capacity of innovative agri-tech to continuously and autonomously monitor and measure production, health and well-being of individual animals is expanding.  There is a need to understand the economic feasibility of different combinations of technology and to develop 'smarter' decision support systems that integrate and analyse streams of data in real-time to provide prescriptive solutions to constraints limiting individual animal and farm profitability.

Project Objectives

Dairy cows are the most monitored individual animal in world agriculture and much of the developed technology has been focused on monitoring production and animal health and welfare.  There is a need to understand the economics of different combinations of technologies and develop systems for data integration, analysis and visualisation that improve farmer decision making and capture the potential value of technology in dairy production systems.  The objectives of this study are to:

- Develop real-time prescriptive decision support systems using sensor, robotic milking and market data, and

- Undertake an assessment of the economic feasibility of innovative agri-tech that aims to improve dairy farming profitability.

This project will develop a commercially relevant researcher who would be well suited to working either as a career academic, a public sector/industry researcher, or an agri-tech entrepreneur.  Through this project the student will receive training in farm management economics, agricultural systems modelling, programming, statistical analyses and data visualisation, as well as gain experience of the technical challenges in the application of precision livestock technologies to dairy farming systems and on-farm decision making. 

Applications should be made through the HAU website: where further details of the project can also be found.

The deadline for uploading completed applications is 5pm UK time on Thursday, 12 September 2019.

Further information can be found on the HAU website at and on the research training provided and PhD progression requirements in the Postgraduate Research Students Handbook at:

For informal enquiries on general aspects of research degrees at HAU, applicants may contact Mrs Viv Slann, Postgradute Research Students Administrator ( For informal enquiries on the project, applicants may contact the Director of Studies, Professor Karl Behrendt, through the staff directory:

The studentship includes tuition, bench and writing up fees and a tax-free stipend at the RCUK rate for 2019/2020 ((£15,009 per annum).

All applicants must have a minimum of an upper second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in agriculture, animal science, economics, data science or related disciplines, or an MSc degree in the same areas. 

A minimum level of competency in English is required.  Where necessary, applicants need to be classed as an overall IELTS grade 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component.  Please see the following link with regard to English Language requirements:



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Further details:

Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education Institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector.

With 2800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects.  Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange

Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. Its current graduate employment rate is 98% (the joint top rating in England) and student satisfaction stands at 93% (National Student Survey 2017).

Harper Adams is ranked as the UK’s Best Modern University by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018; was named University of the Year in the 2016 and 2017 Whatuni Student Choice Awards and holds a Gold (highest level) award from the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework.

In 2018 Harper Adams University will receive the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education, part of the UK honours system.

Applied research is at the heart of the university’s activity, with the work of a thriving academic community underpinning both teaching and work with the industries allied to Harper. The 2014 Government Research Excellence Framework rated all of the university’s research as “of international quality”, and more than half was deemed “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.