Human-like autonomous robotics harvesting and control system for soft fruits


An opportunity to apply for a full-time PhD in the Faculty of the Environment and Technology. The studentship will be funded by UWE Bristol and ANTOBOT Ltd: Ref 2022-FET-FET01.

The expected start date of this studentship is 1 February 2022.

The closing date for applications is 1 November 2021.

About the studentship

The Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) have an exciting PhD post within a team of roboticists and machine learning researchers working on a project which will lead to a highly accurate and efficient mobile manipulation for soft fruits. This PhD studentship will focus on control and mechatronic design to reproduce human hand-harvesting operations for soft fruits by developing novel and better ways to detect and pick occluded fruits that lie within dense clusters with high accuracy and picking speed. The envisioned research will be demonstrated and evaluated in challenging fruit farm environments, inspecting different types of fruits, and harvesting different varieties in a human-like manner.

The agriculture industry is under unprecedented pressure to meet the increased demand for food due to the growing population and climate change. Besides the increasing pressure to produce more, there is a global need for higher quality and sustainable cultivation. Precision agriculture combined with cognitive robotics holds the greatest potential to address these challenges. Particularly, intelligent, autonomous, and selective harvesting can provide substantial improvement in fruit and vegetable production while reducing the gap of labour shortage. However, to achieve such automation, significant progress is required regarding the cognitive, mechatronic and control capabilities of the robotics system, especially when human-like actions are required by the robots. The PhD candidate is intended to study human-like skill learning to build a primitive skill library, which combined with the visual servo control and visual cognition algorithms to complete prototypes and eventually verify that with our industrial partner.

The PhD will involve working in the extensive facilities in BRL and engagement with the ANTOBOT LTD. BRL is located at our Frenchay campus and within walking distance of two train stations and bus stops, making UWE Bristol Frenchay Campus the ideal place to work for those wishing to commute to Bristol. UWE Bristol is committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity to create an inclusive working environment. We believe this can be achieved through attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse range of staff from many different backgrounds who share our ambition to be a university recognised for the success and impact of our practice-oriented programmes; our strong industry networks and our inclusive global outlook.

Excellent candidates with engineering or computer science backgrounds and specialisation in robotics, computer vision, and machine learning are encouraged to apply.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Professor Charlie Yang (


The studentship is available from 1 February 2022 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £15,609 per annum.

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years.


Applicants must have a Bachelor or a Masters degree in Robotics, Control Engineering, or Computer Science, etc. and ideally will have good programming skills such as C++, Python, MATLAB, etc. The research experience of robotics is preferred.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted, use the reference number 2022-FEB-FET01.

Supporting documentation: You will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application, so please have these available when you complete the application form.  

References: You will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is 1 November 2021.

Further information

We aim for interviews to take place the week commencing 6 December 2021. If you have not heard from us by 30 November 2021, we thank you for your application but, on this occasion, you have not been successful.