A Novel Support Tool to Help Farmers Determine Nitrogen Fertiliser Application Plans Using Satellite Imagery

Qualification: MPhil

Department: Engineering

Application deadline: Open until filled

Start date: As soon as possible


This project is a fully-funded one-year industrial MPhil available from the University of Leicester (Department of Engineering) to undertake applied research and development on behalf of a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) in Leicester and Leicestershire.


Professor Tanya Vladimirova (Department of Engineering)

Professor Mike Warrington (Department of Engineering)

Project description

Project reference: LIH014

You will help inform the development of a new product (beta App) for farmers, enabling them to control the amount of fertiliser they use. The industrial MPhil is funded by the Leicester Innovation Hub through European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) monies and the sponsorship of the SME.

The proposed MPhil is a continuation of a collaboration between the Department of Engineering at University of Leicester and a Leicester-based SME, offering a range of services to farmers. The R&D collaboration’s aim is to help farmers increase the efficiency of fertiliser use and thus cut costs and increase yield.

In 2017, the two organisations completed a feasibility study which explored the viability of developing an on-farm system to provide farmers expert advice on variable rate nitrogen fertiliser applications, based on processing of satellite imagery data. A follow-on project with additional partners is proposed to develop a beta prototype.

Project goal

The goal of the MPhil proposed research project is to take the outcome of the feasibility study further and implement a variable-rate fertiliser decision-making and prescription software tool. The tool will be based on the developed functional model of the system, which is captured with Matlab. The model was validated through test campaigns with farmers. It incorporates several components, such as satellite image processing, Geographic Information System (GIS) functions, and expert agronomist knowledge.

The software tool will be implemented using the ‘C’ programming language. The Matlab model will be constantly upgraded with additional features, as necessary, during the project work, and will be used as a reference for testing of the tool before it is validated by users. Ultimately, the service/product developed through the project will provide the SME with a new product and service which it can sell to farmers (i.e. their business customers). It will have the ability to quickly process satellite data into nitrogen fertiliser application maps.

During this project, you will work closely with the sponsoring Leicester-based SME and the University of Leicester.



  • The University of Leicester pays a monthly stipend of £1,166.67 in arrears to the student, totalling £14,000. The funding will be strictly limited to twelve months.
  • The SME pays the University’s one-year full-time MPhil fees upfront before the project starts.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements


Required skills

  • A very good working knowledge of, and previous experience in, C language programming.
  • A very good working knowledge of, and previous experience in, modelling with Matlab/Simulink.
  • Ability to build strong working relationships with core stakeholders (academics, sponsoring SME, and third sector organisations).
  • Business engagement/development skills and aptitude.
  • Effective spoken English and written skills, in order to communicate effectively.
  • A self-starter who is able to work as part of a team.

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Professor Tanya Vladimirova

Leicester Innovation Hub enquiries

Jenny Hollis

How to apply

How to apply

To apply please use the Apply button at the bottom of the page.

  • In the funding section of the application, please select 'Studentship' and in the dropdown menu, select 'ERDF MPhil project'.
  • In the 'Personal Statement' section, please indicate clearly why you are interested in undertaking this research project and why you are the best candidate to help deliver the project objectives.
  • In the 'Research Proposal Section' please state: 'Applying for MPhil Project Ref: LIH014 no proposal required'.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview with the academics and the sponsoring SME. Interviews are expected to be held within 14 days of the application deadline.



To qualify for fully-funded support from the SME, you and the University of Leicester academics must fulfil all ERDF and University MPhil degree eligibility criteria.

You must:

  • Be a UK or EU (European Union) national.
  • Have graduated within the last 3 years in a related discipline.
  • Adhere to project confidentiality.
  • Assign any arising IP from the project at the outset.
  • Base your MPhil degree thesis on the research outcomes of the project.
  • Work closely with the SME company to undertake the research project.
  • Deliver monthly progress reports and a comprehensive project report to the University and sponsoring SME in addition to the MPhil thesis.

Each SME project will be delivered by one full-time MPhil student over one year; the MPhil project will have a research focus and will be supervised by two University of Leicester academics (one day a week each; academics are required to complete timesheets).