Funded PhD Studentship: Fulfilling the 'promise' of precision'?A user-centred study of sensor technology for farm animal welfare

Harper Adams
July 24, 2024
Offerd Salary:£19,237
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Fixed Term
Working Time:Full time
Working type:N/A
Ref info:N/A
Funded PhD Studentship: Fulfilling the 'promise' of precision'?A user-

centred study of sensor technology for farm animal welfare

Animal Health, Behaviour & Welfare Location: Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB

Salary: As per advert Post Type: Full Time Contract Type: Fixed Term - 36 Months Closing Date: 23.59 hours BST on Wednesday 24 July 2024 Reference: RD-PHD-24-GC-R1-MH

Title: Fulfilling the 'promise of precision'? A user-centred study of sensor technology for farm animal welfare

Primary Supervisor - Dr Gemma Charlton (Harper Adams University)

Additional Supervisors – Prof. David Rose (Harper Adams University)

Interview date: 6th August 2024

Start Date: 1st October 2024

Project Description: Precision livestock technologies, such as wearable sensors, have the potential to enhance farm animal welfare by monitoring animals 24/7, allowing data-led early intervention when problems arise and/or inspiring system changes to enhance positive welfare. Previous research conducted by the supervisory team1 and other groups around the world has illustrated the potential for wearable sensor technologies to improve positive welfare and reduce negative animal welfare. However, the burgeoning literature on precision livestock technology has largely based these promises on assumptions that technologies would be optimally applied on-farm and implemented exactly as manufacturers intend.

The aim of this PhD is to develop previous research on PLF and technology adoption, to better understand how wearable sensor technologies in livestock systems are used on-farm, and how they affect welfare, and then provide recommendations for manufacturers, retailers, industry groups, and policy- makers, to support farmers in optimising their use (if found to be effective).

We aim to work with industry involved in developing PLF solutions for animal welfare, but the choice of technology and species to work with may be influenced by the student. More specifically, the successful PhD candidate may investigate the following suggested research questions, though there is flexibility for the student to shape the project:

  • How do livestock sensor technologies affect farm management decisions?
  • What are the factors that influence if and how sensor technologies are used by farm managers and workers to improve animal welfare?
  • Do sensor technologies lead to enhanced welfare outcomes on-farm?
  • Research questions 1 and 2 – Social Science study of technology use

    The purpose of these research questions could be to address the gap in the literature around post-adoption studies. We will be interested in ‘how' sensor technologies are being used on-farm, rather than the usual question of ‘if' they are being used. We know that farm managers and workers do not always use technologies as intended by their manufacturer and positive welfare outcomes depend on users making management improvements based on sensor data.

    Research question 3 – Animal Welfare Assessments

    Precision livestock technologies can be utilised to enhance animal welfare, often by alerting farmers to potential problems with livestock. However, it is uncertain whether farmers respond to these alerts and take appropriate action to improve animal welfare, as well as how the technologies themselves perform. Therefore, to assess whether animal welfare improves as a result of technology adoption, welfare assessments could be conducted on the recruited farms, both prior to and after the technology is employed.

    Successful candidates will receive a yearly stipend (paid monthly) for maintenance set at the UKRI rate - for 2024/5 this will be £19,237. The scholarship will cover tuition fees for ‘home' students (UK and Republic of Ireland). Harper Adams University is unfortunately unable to offer a tuition fee waiver for international students applying and evidence of funding will be required for International Fee paying students to show they can cover the difference between the UK and international fees for the full four years - for the 2024/5 academic year this amount is £10,890. However, scholarships maybe be available at the time of appointment to cover the difference between UK and International fees for the duration of the programme.

    We invite applicants from inter-disciplinary backgrounds to apply for this project, which mixes animal welfare science and social science. Whilst we would welcome applicants who have relevant inter-disciplinary backgrounds, training in less developed areas can be given, if the student has specialised previously. This position would suit students with a background in animal science, with a specific interest in animal behaviour, welfare and the use of precision livestock technologies, and who would embrace the opportunity to gain experience in a range of scientific techniques. Likewise, it would suit a student from a social science background, perhaps in agricultural extension, geography, or behavioural economics (and more), who has an interest in technology use in livestock systems.

    In return, you will be provided with guidance and supervision from experts in the relevant disciplines, based at Harper Adams University, to guide you through your PhD studies. Applicants must hold a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent bachelor's degree in an appropriate subject /high grade point average bachelor's degree for international applicants or a 2.2 alongside a suitable Master's Degree. Potential for research based on alternative qualifications/experience as judged acceptable by the university, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    Please direct any queries related to the PhD project to Dr Gemma Charlton ([email protected])

    1 Charlton et al. (2019) - https: //

    Apply Online

    Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects. Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

    Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

    Harper Adams University is internationally recognised for the quality of its research, as evidenced by the Research Excellence Framework 2022. In order to maintain and uphold the high standards of our research, we continue to undertake initiatives to ensure that integrity, ethics and excellence are at the core of our research activities and fully embedded in our research culture.


    View All Vacancies

    From this employer

    Recent blogs

    Recent news