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An economic assessment of autonomous equipment for field crops

Land, Farm and Agri-business Management Department

Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Salary:  As per advert
Post Type:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Friday 28 February 2020
Interview Date:  To be confirmed
Reference:  RD-PHD42JLDEB-R

PhD Studentship (36 months with potential for an additional year with teaching experience)


Population growth and economic development are driving the demand for more and better quality food.  Simultaneously, there is pressure to limit the environmental footprint of agriculture, manage existing land more intensely, use fewer inputs and apply those inputs only when and where they are most needed.  Managing farms more intensely usually requires more workers, but in the UK and many other parts of the world agricultural labour is increasingly difficult to hire.  Agricultural automation, robotics and co-robotics are often suggested as part of the sustainable intensification solution. Automating routine agricultural operations would reduce the labour constraint.  Robots might make it economically feasible to manage individual plants and animals, instead of managing fields and herds.  The technical ability to automate routine farm work and to enable autonomous agricultural robots is rapidly developing.   This study will assess the economic implications of robotics for field crops and estimate the optimal level of human-robot collaboration in the UK field crop production.  Analysis will be based on data and experience from the Harper Adams University Hands Free Farm.

Aims and Objectives

The objective of this assessment would be to estimate the potential benefit of autonomous production of grain and oilseeds in the UK at the per hectare, farm and national level.  This project addresses an urgent need in high tech entrepreneurship and also develops 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.

The student will receive training in farm management, economic feasibility analysis, farm modelling and linear programming as well as experience of the challenges of participating in the development of and adaption of new technology in farm management. 

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, 28 February 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 Vivien Slann, Postgraduate Research Students Administrator ( For informal enquiries on the project, applicants may contact the Director of Studies, Professor James Lowenberg-DeBoer, through the staff directory:

The studentship includes tuition, bench and writing up fees and a tax-free stipend at the RCUK 2020-2021 rate.  This rate is not yet published but the rate for 2019-2020 is £15,009.

All applicants must have a minimum of an upper second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in an agricultural discipline, engineering, economics 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:

Further details:    Job description    
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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”. 



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