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Decision Automation for Orchards and Vineyards

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Armin Werner
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Decision Automation for Orchards and Vineyards is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary project on sensing and understanding of high-value fruit canopies in commercial orchards or vineyards to learn and train AI-tools of manual activities from experienced staff with the intention to support decision making of staff and later robots. The project is funded by the New Zealand Government with strong financial and in-kind support form the NZ-apple and NZ-wine industries as well as manufacturers of equipment and robots.
The project is based in the University’s Centre for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science (CARES) and James Henare Māori Research Centre (JHMRC).
The mission of the multidisciplinary CARES is to create innovative and inspiring robotic technologies that improve physical, psychological and economic societal wellbeing. The group’s research activities are principally based in the area of human-robot interaction, robot programming systems and tools and applications including robotics for healthcare, precision farming, underwater, and factories. Previous related research includes sensing, machine learning, and tracking of objects for augmented reality and for flowers and fruit in orchards.
JHMRC focuses on providing excellent research to empower Māori. JHMRC will lead partnerships with Māori business and farming communities, perspectives on the project’s design and education, and the development of capability through Māori PhD and summer students. To discuss this opportunity further, please contact Dr Marama Muru-Lanning.

Multiple scholarships are available that include full stipends and tuition fees for three years. We especially welcome applications from Māori scholars as a number of our scholarships are reserved for Māori doctoral candidates.
University of Auckland
1: Machine learning of orchard and vineyard tasks (two positions)
Supervisors: Professor Bruce MacDonald and Dr Henry Williams
Focused on sensing and analysing human execution of tasks outdoors and creating a task description.
2: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality human assistance with computer vision
Supervisors: Professor Bruce MacDonald and Associate Professor Patrice Delmas
Using AR/VR to help human orchard and vineyard works to make better decisions when carrying out tasks, based on the learned task description and decision making.
3: Artificial Intelligence decision making for orchard and vineyard tasks
Supervisors: Professor Bruce MacDonald and Dr Ho Seok Ahn
Making decisions to execute a task based on the learned task description.
University of Waikato
4: Mechatronic Devices (two positions)
Supervisors: Professor Mike Duke and Dr Shen Hin Lim
Developing mechatronics hardware integrated with wearable robotics that enables humans to harvest blueberries, thin apple buds and prune vines.
5: Augmented Reality Wearable Robotics
Supervisors: Professor Mike Duke and Dr Shen Hin Lim
Working with research partners to develop wearable robotics that control handheld mechatronic devices for harvesting blueberries, thinning apples and pruning vines.

University of Canterbury
6: Autonomous pruning
Supervisor: Professor Richard Green

University of Otago
7: Technology and communities in the food system: exploring engagement and effects of robotics and AI in agriculture
Supervisor: Dr Katharine Legun

Lincoln Agritech Limited
8: Neural Networks for Sensor Fusion in Canopy Analysis
Supervisors: Professor Armin Werner and Dr Jaco Fourie
Fundamental principles in AI-based combining of data from various sensors with complementary features to derive 3D-data on key components of grape vines and apple trees in front of manual workers.
9: Plant Canopy Progression Model
Supervisors: Professor Armin Werner and Dr Jaco Fourie
Modelling the development of structural components (branches, canes, bud & flowers) of grape vines and apple trees to simulate the future of the canopy morphology in front of manual workers.
10: Sensor based safe Human Assistance
Supervisors: Professor Armin Werner and Dr Abbas Jafari
Developing sensing technologies that ensure safe support of manual workers through wearable actuators and robots in orchards or vineyards.

We hope to fill the advertised positions as soon as possible. Our doctoral candidates will work across the project with researchers from our partner organisations. For further advice on admission and our scholarship programme, please contact the supervisor(s) of the project you would like to join.
General inquiries about this doctoral scholarship programme can be directed to our acting Programme Leader, Professor Armin Werner, on behalf of the Programme Leader, Prof. Bruce Macdonald.

Funding Notes

Decision Automation for Orchards and Vineyards is an exciting new research programme funded by the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Main project organisation is the University of Auckland, New Zealand. This research programme is a partnership between the Universities of Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury, and Otago, the Plant and Food Research Institute, Lincoln Agritech Ltd, and several companies and industry organisations.
We are committed to working together to design, develop, and evaluate robotics, as well as the sensing hardware and software that will perform vital tasks for orchards and vineyards. This project builds on previous research between the partners.


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