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Apply by: 2023-06-12

Tenure Track/ Chair- Junior Professor – INRAE (France)

Published 2023-04-13

  • Duration: 3 years, potentially leading to a permanent Research Director position
  • Title: Orica (Innovative Robotic Tools for Agroecological Technical Itineraries)
  • Part of INRAE - the
  • Location: Aubière near Clermont-Ferrand, France
  • Partners: Clermont-Auvergne University (UCA), Clermont Auvergne INP, Cap 2025 site, Labex IMOBS3, ED-SPI
  • About INRAE

    The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) is a public research institution under the dual supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Research. It is a major player in research and innovation, created on January 1, 2020 as a result of the merger between INRA and Irstea. INRAE brings together a community of 12,000 people, with 268 research, service and experimental units located in 18 centers throughout France.

    The institute is amongst the world's top leaders in agricultural and food sciences, plant and animal sciences, and ranks 11th worldwide in ecology-environment. In the face of population growth, climate change, resource scarcity, and biodiversity decline, INRAE is developing solutions for multi-performing agriculture, quality food, and sustainable management of resources and ecosystems.

    Work environment: Missions and activities 

    INRAE is committed to developing new agricultural practices that reduce environmental impact and laborious tasks, with a focus on agroecology and the role of agricultural equipment in this transition. To achieve this goal, it is essential to design and develop agricultural equipment adapted to innovative practices, including using robotics technologies for increased crop monitoring, frequent passes, and targeted and precise actions in variable and uncertain environments. Thus, the development of complex crops (multi-species, combined, mosaic...) leads to the consideration of using agricultural equipment with a high level of autonomy and precision. This requires the development of robots capable of acting directly on crops, going beyond the issue of autonomous navigation. The Junior Professorship role will enable the development of this vision by strengthening the ROMEA team of the TSCF research unit to consolidate its leadership in research and its national network of scientific collaborations (Equipex+ TIRREX and AgroTechnoPôle projects...). This evolution is in line with the SADEA acceleration strategy, which proposes many actions on this theme, and of which INRAE is a major player. The TSCF unit of INRAE Clermont-Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is at the forefront of innovation in digital and robotic technologies for agroecosystems and agroecological transition. It has played a leading role in the development of robotics for agriculture, thanks to its recognised research on autonomous navigation of robots in all-terrain environments. This research is based on strong territorial anchoring within the Labex IMobS3 and the I-site Cap20-25, with an international focus, particularly through the creation of Graduate Tracks on the theme of "intelligent and innovative mobility (MII)". The unit is also building an innovative national strategy, bringing together many stakeholders (academic, socio-economic, users) through the RobAgri association, enabling it to actively participate in the animation of the national robotics community and to take root at the European level. Aware of the challenges related to the agroecological transition, TSCF is exploiting its leadership position (participation in the construction of SADEA), and its involvement on the international scene (AgROBOFood, TEF AGRIFOOD) to define a scientific roadmap for developing robotic technologies for the agriculture of tomorrow. This particularly involves continuing research already initiated and necessarily multidisciplinary, on the design of adaptable robotic systems acting directly on living organisms. This scientific frontier is crucial for the development of new agricultural equipment and requires the strengthening of the research teams of the TSCF unit.

    Summary of the scientific project 

    Agricultural robots are increasingly being used thanks to advances in autonomous navigation, but they remain limited in terms of actions that can be performed in real life. To use robots for agroecology, it is necessary to develop robotic systems that can adapt to the environment and directly interact with the soil and vegetation. The challenges related to this theme are numerous, particularly due to the changing, deformable, and fragile nature of these objects that interact with robots. To overcome these obstacles, the scientific theme of the chair will focus on the development of new sensorimotor approaches to discriminate between different crops and their associated properties, in order to carry out appropriate agronomic actions for each cultivated species. To do so, we will develop adaptive optimal control approaches that take into account the estimation of the vegetation and soil state, considering the entire robotic system (mobile vector and associated tools) in the context of evolution. These research areas are very innovative in both robotics and agronomy, and the completion of this project will strengthen the interaction between these two communities, which is fundamental for the deployment of effective and sustainable solutions. Two scientific divisions AgroEcoSystem and MathNum pilot the TSCF unit, facilitating these interactions. Finally, beyond perception and control, the project aims to develop new tools adapted to the processing of plants and soil, thus fitting into the emerging theme of deformable robotics.

    The candidate will supervise theses and postdocs to strengthen their research in the long term, and will build international projects to contribute to the maintenance of French agricultural robotics leadership on the international scene in close collaboration with the unit's partners. They will also play a role in representation and animation in various scientific bodies of the community.

    Summary of the teaching project 

    This chair aims to strengthen the theme of mobile robotics interacting with the environment. This theme is still emerging and the Clermont site is a pioneer in both research and education. Local initiatives aim to promote the excellence of such education and strengthen the site's attractiveness, particularly at the master's level, in which INRAE participates. Indeed, the CAP GS project, led by the University of Clermont Auvergne, has been selected in the framework of the SFRI call for proposals. It brings together seven master's and doctoral programs (graduate tracks) grouped in a Graduate School dedicated to the general theme of CAP 20-25: "designing new models of sustainable life and production". The teaching project will be part of the Graduate track for intelligent and innovative mobility (MII) to strengthen INRAE's contribution and transmit to students the developments it will lead. It will bring expertise in modeling and controlling mobile and manipulator robots, going beyond the agricultural application context. Teaching topics related to flexible body manipulation is a novelty in the landscape of robotics education. Indeed, few training programs in France offer this theme, requiring knowledge in the field of artificial perception (estimation of interactions and scene recognition), mechatronic design (definition of compliant systems), and control (optimal and reconfigurable control). It will also be integrated into the doctoral program by participating in the development of modules within the ED-SPI focused on mobile and manipulator robotics. In parallel with education in the field of robotics, the junior professor will also bring a new dynamic to the development of digital and robotic technologies for agroecological transition.

    Profile Required 

    We are seeking a candidate who holds a PhD in mobile and/or manipulator robotics with significant post-doctoral experience, particularly in the area of outdoor mobile robots. Strong research skills in perception and control of mobile robots in open and natural environments will be a major asset. Knowledge of agricultural and agroecological applications will be considered a plus, although these skills can be acquired during integration into the Chair. Fluency in English is desired, as well as significant international experience. We also seek a candidate with an interest in experimentation, as the team's work is focused on applications.

    Salary and package

  • Annual salary from 54 600 Euros to 57 800 Euros depending on professional experience
  • Expected project package: over 300 000 euros, including postdocs and PhDs grants
  • A contract that includes teaching and that could lead to a permanent position as Research Director (Senior scientist) after 3 years
  • How to apply

    After a review of their application by a committee, selected candidates will be invited to an audition.

    For more information

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