New global research centre to boost agri-robotics development

A major international centre for agri-robotics is to be created in the UK, after the announcement of a significant Government grant.

Lincoln Agri-Robotics will be established as a new research centre bringing together world-leading expertise in robotics, artificial intelligence and agriculture, based on the site of the University of Lincoln's working farm.

It will be the UK's first global centre of excellence in agri-robotics research.

The university is already spearheading the development of next generation robots for agri-food production.

Lincoln's Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor Andrew Hunter said the new funding of $12.3 million wouldl enable researchers to scale up their work tackling pressing issues facing the global food chain.

The new research centre will be based on a working farm at Lincoln University.
The new research centre will be based on a working farm at Lincoln University. Photo credit: Supplied/Lincoln University

"Agri-food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK - twice the scale of automotive and aerospace combined - supporting a food chain which generates a Gross Value Added (GVA) of $217 billion, with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry," he said.

He said it was widely agreed that robotics will transform the food and farming industries in the coming years, as producers adapt to meet significantly increased global demand, but said there was much research and development to be done. 

"The creation of Lincoln Agri-Robotics is therefore extremely timely and positions Lincolnshire, and the UK, at the leading edge of research innovations in this truly global industry," said Professor Hunter

"RAAI technologies will facilitate a step change in agricultural productivity while reducing environmental impact, and this new centre of excellence will be at the forefront of that change."

Research at Lincoln Agri-Robotics will focus on autonomous agri-robots that can efficiently tend, harvest and quality-control high-value crops with reduced human intervention, improving agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability, and addressing the demands of a growing population. 

The grant will enable the University to establish headquarters for the research centre, develop a state-of-the-art digital infrastructure, create specialist RAAI facilities and strengthen its pool of world-leading robotics researchers by bringing a number of new academic experts to the institution.