Fully Funded PhD Position in Agrifood at Wageningen University the Netherlands

PhD position Agrifood Netherlands


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“Funded PhD Position Agrifood” Netherlands “PhD Scholarship in agriculture” “funded PhD scholarship in agric”

About the Fully Funded PhD Position in Agrifood in the Netherlands

This PhD position in Agri-food (Modelling and Control for Sustainable Dairy Farming) is part of the Synergia project. Synergia is a crossover program funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Synergia contributes to the UN Sustainability Development Goals for the environment (depletion of scarce resources, global warming, acidification, eutrophication, nutrient losses, and biodiversity loss), labour (availability of skilled workers), and society (consumer/societal acceptance of novel technology and production methods).


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Synergia goes beyond current precision agriculture (PA) and precision livestock farming (PLF) and is developing the new concept of ‘Technology-4-Ecology-based farming’ (T4E) where biological/ecological principles in farming lead the development of new farming systems, and the required technological knowledge, principles and tools. Our multi-disciplinary team with biology, ecology, agronomy, technology and social science backgrounds, will explore how current and future farming technologies can enable and support truly ecology-based farming systems.


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The aim of this PhD project is to employ the latest sensing and actuating technology in an optimal way, by designing a model-based strategy to control feed intake of cows. Controlling feed intake on a herd level is too coarse; there is a lot of variation between cow feed intake responses. For example, some cows are lactating, and others not. The feed intake should be tailored to serve the needs of each cow individually: maintaining a healthy internal energy balance while minimizing harmful emissions of phosphate, nitrogen, and methane.

If you are an enthusiastic researcher that likes to work on modeling and control and apply it to improve processes in agriculture and food production, then you might be the right PhD-candidate for this position.


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Research Challenges for the Fully Funded PhD Position in Agrifood in the Netherlands

The development of a model-based controller raises the following scientific challenges, that will form the backbone of your research. The first challenge is to select a mechanistic energy model and transform it into an input-state-output form that is suitable for control design. The next challenge is to extend the model with some chemical/physiological processes that describe the excretion of phosphate, nitrogen, and methane. Mechanistic models that describe the internal energy balance of cows have been developed. Such models describe how the food of different compositions are processed into energy, and how this energy is allocated to milk production, gestation, body mass, fat storage, and resilience. The selected model can be trained via data sets made available within our consortium.

Thereafter, the model parameters can be tuned to enable controller design for individual cows, for example via a parameter estimation algorithm.
Finally, a controller can be designed that provides reliable and automated advice on feed intake, even under uncertainty in model predictions or circumstances, for example, a robust or stochastic controller. This is a basic plan. There is flexibility to develop your own research objectives and methods


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Within our research consortium there are already models, data and knowledge on cow physiology, and feed intake response, which will be expanded throughout the project. Also several companies are involved that represent the state of the art in the industry. This PhD project provides a unique opportunity for developing a novel control design that is tailored to the needs of the modern farming industry and embedded in a solid scientific background.


Benefits of the Fully Funded PhD Position in Agrifood in the Netherlands

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from their Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • study leave and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation/holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will of course receive a good salary. The gross salary for the first year is € 2.443 per month rising to € 3.122, in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 12 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.


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Eligibility Criteria for the Fully Funded PhD Position in the Netherlands

Applications for the fully funded PhD research in Agrifood (Modelling and Control for Sustainable Dairy Farming) at Wageningen University in the Netherlands are invited from applicants who:

  • are motivated researchers holding an MSc in the area of systems and control, modeling and optimization, or related field;
  • have a keen interest in optimization and control, with real-world applications;
  • have knowledge of animal physiology, or are willing to obtain this knowledge;
  • enjoy the interaction, communication and collaboration with other researchers in an inter-disciplinary team;
  • are an independent researcher that can take control over his/her project;
  • have good oral and written communication skills;
  • you meet all the entry requirements of the WUR PhD Programme

We encourage female researchers to apply. Also for this position, your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level


How to Apply for the Funded PhD Position in Agrifood

To apply for the fully funded PhD research position at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, use the online application portal


Application Deadline

The last day to apply for this opposition is October 31, 2022.

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