Develop Crop-based Sensors for Real-time Monitoring and Control Under Protected Cropping

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Lead Researcher: Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum

About the project

Smart farming has many advantages such as accurate irrigation and fertigation to save resources and better control of crop growth, health and disease development. The main characteristics of indoor farming is that it attempts to control all environmental factors (e.g., temperature, humidity, water, nutrition and lighting) to optimise the farming production and minimise operation cost.

The PhD project is part of larger project focussed on developing an Internet of Things (IoT) for Indoor Farming funded by the Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre (FFS CRC).(opens in a new window) The IoT project is a collaboration between the University of New South Wales (UNSW, A/Prof Wen Wu), Western Sydney University (A/Prof Oula Ghannoum) and WBS Technology.(opens in a new window)

The PhD project aims at developing a suite of low-cost crop-based sensors for smart indoor farming. These include microclimate sensors inserted within the crop canopy such as temperature, humidity, CO2 and radiation, as well as icameras such as RGB camera, colour detector and hyperspectral imaging, typically used for plant phenotyping. The ultimate goal is to link in real time environmental conditions and fertigation input with crop-based data collected from affordable cameras and sensors. These ‘biological’ sensors will inform about fruit quality and crop growth and health. For the advanced sensors that produce a large amount of data, the project will also develop edge-computing algorithms to reduce amount of data transmitted in the wireless communication channels and the end-to-end system latency.

The successful applicant will be based in Sydney, Australia at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, which hosts the National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre and is a node of the FFS CRC.

This PhD project will suit an ambitious early career scientist who is willing to take on a challenging project in a multi-disciplinary and fast developing field linking crop phenotyping, image analysis and IoT communication systems. They will be supervised by a multidisciplinary team including a Crop Biologist (A/Prof Oula Ghannoum), an IoT Specialist (A/Prof Wen Wu) and a Data Scientist (Dr Yi Guo).

What does the scholarship provide?

  • Domestic candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs, supported by the Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset.
  • International candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs. Those with a strong track record will be eligible for a tuition fee waiver and an Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) Single Policy.(opens in a new window)
  • Support for training, conference attendance, fieldwork and additional research costs as approved by the School.

Eligibility criteria

We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds who are keen to apply their skills to the project topic. The successful applicant should demonstrate an exceptional interest in plant phenotyping and should:

  • hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • have demonstrated experience with basic statistical methods and large data-set analysis (essential).
  • have experience in working with R, MATLAB, Python or similar packages to develop data processing and analytical algorithms (recommended).
  • have good knowledge of plant physiology (desirable).
  • have good communication skills and be creative.
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.

International applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency.(opens in a new window)

How to apply

Follow the step-by-step instructions on the how to apply for a project scholarship(opens in a new window) page.

Incomplete applications or applications that do not conform to the above requirements will not be considered.

For questions and advice about the research project, please contact the Lead Researcher;
Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum:

For questions and advice about the application process, please contact the Graduate Research School:

Applications close 31 October 2020

*Applications close at 11.59pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).

Scholarship reference code: PS2021_09_HIE