Sydney, Australia

2015 IEEE RAS Summer School on Agricultural Robotics

Note: Media coverage has been added to the Media section below.

The IEEE RAS Summer School on Agricultural Robotics (SSAR 2015) is a new summer school to be held in Sydney, Australia over five days during the southern hemisphere summer, from 2-6 February 2015. SSAR 2015 is supported in part by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and The University of Sydney.

Agricultural robotics is an area of growing interest with the potential to bring about profound economic and social benefits. The School aims to promote robotics research that will enable safe, efficient, and economical production in agriculture and horticulture. The School will offer a strong technical and social program appropriate for graduate students, established researchers, engineers and industry leaders. Please address any general enquiries to: .

Applications due: 8 December 2014 (closed)

Invited Speakers (alphabetical)

Andrew Bate, SwarmFarm Robotics
Marcel Bergerman, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)
Simon Blackmore, Harper Adams University
Bruce Finney, Executive Director, Cotton Research and Development Corporation
David Johnson, ACFR, The University of Sydney
Anthony Kachenko, Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited
Kendra Kerrisk, Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney
Juan Nieto, ACFR, The University of Sydney
Timo Oksanen, Aalto University
Tristan Perez, Queensland University of Technology
Rohan Rainbow, Managing Director, Crop Protection Australia
Andrew Robson, University of New England
Daniel Schmoldt, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA
Salah Sukkarieh, ACFR, The University of Sydney
Eldert van Henten, Wageningen UR
Brett Whelan, Dept of Plant and Food Sciences, The University of Sydney
Qin Zhang, Washington State University


Robert Fitch, ACFR, The University of Sydney
Salah Sukkarieh, ACFR, The University of Sydney
Marcel Bergerman, Carnegie Mellon University
Eldert van Henten, Wageningen University
John Billingsley, University of Southern Queensland
John Reid, Moline Technology Innovation Center, John Deere
Mingcong Deng, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

Motivation and objectives

Interest in agricultural robotics is motivated by the need to improve the industries and processes that feed the planet. Agriculture has historically benefited from a stream of technical innovations, and now must respond to significant new demands and pressures to increase efficiency with limited or decreasing availability of human and environmental resources.

In Australia, although current production allows for roughly half of all food produced to be available for export, projections of massively increasing demand from Asia have prompted government to set aggressive targets for production increases. One such target is to increase exports by 45% by year 2025. Because natural resources are limited, achieving such goals must involve increasing the efficiency of production while at the same time engaging in environmental stewardship, and contending with rising human labour costs and diminishing availability of human labour. The number of people involved in agriculture and horticulture in Australia has been in steady decline for the last four decades. The number of farmers in Australia has dropped by 40% since 1981. This decrease is due in part to the reluctance of young people to remain in family farms. Worse, nearly one quarter of farmers are at or above retirement age. Similar trends are present worldwide.

Robotics has the potential to play a significant role in improving the efficiency of existing agricultural methods, in introducing fundamentally new methods, and perhaps most importantly in helping to increase the number of people involved in the agricultural sector. Autonomous systems are currently being developed for tasks such as pruning, thinning, harvesting, mowing, spraying, and weed removal. Systems are also being developed that collect valuable real-time information that will enable new ways to estimate yield and reduce pesticide and herbicide use. In order to achieve the goals of these and future systems, roboticists must advance the state-of-the-art in sensing and perception, mobility, manipulation, and system optimisation. In turn, a new cohort of people in agriculture will develop, commercialise, and operate such systems.

The first Summer School on Agricultural Robotics will bring together leading academics and industrialists to educate and foster collaboration among the next generation of researchers and industry leaders. The School will be of value to researchers and practitioners looking to enter the field. The main technical objective of the School is to cover motivation, state-of-the-art results, and open problems in key areas of agricultural robotics.


The School will consist of three types of activities: 1) presentations by world experts covering a broad range of topics in agricultural robotics, 2) demonstrations of agricultural robotic systems as well as hands-on activities that encourage deep learning, and 3) collaboration activities including a student poster session as well as several social events. A number of international leaders will present their ideas, algorithms, and systems results with a focus on key open problems and research directions. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with these research and industry leaders, and with each other, through the collaboration activities.

The program is available [pdf].


Presentations and lectures will cover the motivation driving research in agricultural robotics from government, industry, and university perspectives, existing projects and results, and open research problems. Underlying research topics include systems design of outdoor platforms, perception in semi-structured outdoor environments, motion planning for single and multiple robot systems, and manipulation for harvesting and weeding. Presentations will collectively address each of these areas.

Of particular interest to established researchers will be presentations representing the USDA, GRDC, HIA, and CRDC.


There will be hands-on sessions where attendees will have the opportunity to complete implementation examples of useful algorithms for agricultural robotics.

We will also visit the University's Camden campus to see a demonstration of a new robotic rotary milking system for dairy.


An important component of the School will be an attendee presentation and poster session. Attendees will be asked to prepare a one-minute oral `lightning round' presentation of their current research and/or interests in addition to a poster. These sessions will allow the attendees to introduce themselves and interact with each other in a semi-structured setting.

The other social component consists of informal opportunities to interact during breaks, lunches, a banquet, and closing drinks. Here attendees will have access to discussions with presenters in a comfortable setting.

Application and registration

The application process is intended to be simple and straightforward.

Please send the following information via email to :

  • your name
  • your affiliation (university or company name)
  • your role/position (e.g. grad student, researcher, industry practitioner, etc.)
  • indicate whether you currently are a member of the IEEE
  • a short, one-paragraph statement of interest (i.e. why you are interested in attending SSAR 2015).

Applications will be processed as received. Spaces are limited so please send your application as soon as possible.

The registration fee covers all events and amenities including morning/afternoon tea, lunch, various social events, and the summer school dinner. The registration fee is $500 AUD for IEEE members. Please contact us () for information on registration fees if you are not an IEEE member. Further details on paying the registration fee will be provided to successful applicants.

Applications due: 8 December 2014 (closed).

Venue, travel and accommodation

Note: All talks will be in the PNR Building, J02, which is near the ACFR. See visiting us for further information.

SSAR 2015 will be held at The University of Sydney, home of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. The ACFR leads a number of projects in agricultural robotics.

Sydney is the largest city in Australia and is an excellent place to visit, with a number of urban attractions complemented by easy access to beautiful beaches and coastal areas.

Sydney is served by Kingsford Smith International airport. The University of Sydney is easily accessible from the airport by taxi or train.

On registration day, please meet at the ACFR where you find signs directing you to the registration area. Directions on how to find ACFR are here].

A link to detailed accommodation options can be found at this link.

Visa information can be found at the Australian Immigration Office.


ABC Rural (Robert Fitch and Andrew Bate)

NSW Country Hour (Eldert van Henten)

ABC Rural (Simon Blackmore)