PhD Scholarship – Developing crop-based sensors for real-time monitoring and control under protected cropping

Smart farming has many advantages, such as accurate irrigation and fertigation to save resources and better control of crop growth, health and disease development. Indoor farming attempts to control all environmental factors, including temperature, humidity, water, nutrition and lighting, to optimise crop production and minimise operational cost.

The PhD project is part of a larger  collaborative project focused on developing an Internet of Things (IoT) for advanced indoor cropping facilities. It is funded by the Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre (FFS CRC).

The IoT for indoor cropping project is a collaboration between the University of New South Wales (Associate Professor Wen Wu), Western Sydney University (Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum) and WBS Technology.

The project

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 for  monitoring temperature, humidity, CO2 and radiation; and icameras (such as RGB cameras) for colour detection and hyperspectral imaging, typically used in plant phenotyping.

The overarching goal of the project 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 provide information about fruit quality and crop growth and health. For advanced sensors producing large quantities of data, the project will also develop edge-computing algorithms to reduce the amount of data transmitted via wireless communication channels and the end-to-end system latency.

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.

The position

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

He or she will be supervised by a multidisciplinary team that includes crop biologist Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum, IoT specialist Associate Professor Wen Wu; and data scientist Dr Yi Guo.

What does the scholarship provide?

» Domestic students will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000 per annum and a funded place in the doctoral degree.
» International students will receive a tax-free stipend of$30,000 per annum. Those with a strong track record will receive a fee waiver.
» The project will also provide funding for research costs and conference travel.


  • The successful applicant should demonstrate an exceptional interest in plant phenotyping, and experience with basic statistical methods and large-dataset analysis.
  • Experience in working with R, MATLAB, Python or similar packages to develop data-processing and analytical algorithms is recommended.
  • Collection and analysis of digital imaging (e.g., RGB, infrared and/or hyperspectral) is highly desirable.
  • Good knowledge of plant physiology is desirable.
  • The successful applicant should hold qualifications and experience equal to an Australian First Class Bachelor Honours degree (or equivalent overseas qualification).
  • He or she should be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level;
  • The candidate needs to have good communication skills and creativity.
  • International applicants must also demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the English language. Please refer to the English language requirements on the WSU website.

How to apply

Applicants should discuss their eligibility and interest in the position with Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum at

To discuss enrolment and scholarships, contact WSU’s Graduate Research School at

Please submit an application form, CV, the names and contact information of two referees, and a one-page document stating how your research interests align with the project’s aims.

Note that the closing date for applications is 31 October 2020.

Download the application form here.

View as a pdf.