Post-Doctoral Research Fellow on Autonomous Harvesting Robots

University of Plymouth

This is a fixed-term position within the Faculty of Science and Engineering at University of Plymouth, integrated in the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS). You will be expected to act as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow on the Autonomous Brassica harvesting in Cornwall (ABC) project, funded through the Cornwall Agri-Tech initiative, which is supported by an investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The project aims to explore precision harvesting of Brassica crop that is currently hand-picked, through the application of advanced sensing and variable-stiffness robot technology developed at University of Plymouth. A two-handed robot test rig will likely be built, and tested under field conditions in Cornwall. The project is being led by Dr Martin F. Stoelen (PI), with Prof. Mick Fuller as co-I.

The project will be developed with local companies CNC Design Ltd and Teagle Machinery. Riviera Produce Ltd of Hayle, Cornwall, is the principal end-user involved in the project. The project will also be involving Fieldwork Robotics Ltd in Plymouth. You will work within the legal constraints of any agreed non-disclosure agreement (NDA’s) and Intellectual property (IP) protection agreed between Delivery Partners and collaborating businesses.

The role will be to lead the hardware/software development of the robotic system. The work is expected to include:

  • To act as support point of contact with producers and partners in Cornwall, developing the project plan and acquiring requirements.
  • To lead the development of the robotics hardware, including the modification of existing variable-stiffness robot designs to the specific task.
  • To build a test rig for the robotic hardware, and integrate with existing agricultural machinery as required.
  • To oversee the development/adaptation of software for detection, tracking, motion planning/execution, and control.
  • To perform field testing with local partners in Cornwall.
  • To lead the quantitative and/or qualitative analysis and writing up/publishing of the results, as directed by the academic research manager.

You should have a PhD or equivalent in Robotics, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronic, Automation, or Mechatronic Engineering. Can be scheduled to be completed within 6 months of hiring, if you have sufficient previous industry experience. Additional degrees, training, or experience related to agriculture and plant science welcome.

You will be expected to have:

  • A keen interest in robotics applied to agriculture, preferably some experience.
  • Extensive experience with general robot/automation development:
    • Software: Robot Operating System (ROS), Python, C++, Matlab, OpenCV, and robot simulators like V-REP or Gazebo.
    • Hardware: Electronics, mechanical design, 3D modelling (e.g. Autodesk Fusion 360), and rapid prototyping (3D printing and/or CNC machining).
  • Experience with project management in a research and innovation environment.
  • Evidence of relevant research activity and published research.
  • Sufficient knowledge in the discipline and of research methods and techniques to work within established research programmes.
  • Excellent command of English.

Further desirable background include experience working with agricultural robots/machinery, experience of RD&I commercialisation, experience with relevant soft and variable-stiffness robots, and experience with hyperspectral and 3D sensing. You should be able to manage research and administrative activities and to balance the competing pressures of research and administrative demands and deadlines.

This is a full-time post working 37 hours per week on a fixed-term basis for 2 years.

Anticipated interview date: 22 September 2017.

Contact for informal discussion: Dr. Martin F. Stoelen (email:

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