PhD Researcher - The Livestock Technology lab

Leuven, Louvain (BE)
09 Jun 2020
End of advertisement period
03 Aug 2020
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time


(ref. BAP-2020-452)

Technological advances in livestock production provide many new opportunities to optimize and improve sustainability on the farm with minimal environmental impact and a guaranteed welfare for both animal and farmer. The Livestock Technology lab of KU Leuven, led by Prof. Ben Aernouts, develops, implements and validates innovative sensor hardware and data processing algorithms to support the animal management on the farm. The research lab is located at the KU Leuven campus in Geel, in a green and rural environment, and is operating in close collaboration with the industry and livestock sector.


Supported by improved genetics and management practices, the cows’ milk production almost doubled over the past 50 years. Just like top athletes, these animals need a lot of care and attention to maintain a good health and welfare and achieve optimal production levels with minimal environmental impact. On the other hand, the high volatility of the milk price forces the dairy sector to focus on profitability and risk management by upscaling their business. Therefore, to better manage their expanding herds, dairy farmers require reliable technology to monitor the health, production, behavior, welfare and environmental impact of individual animals.

Sensor technology is already well-integrated in dairy farming with applications in measuring milk production, milk quality, feed intake, animal behavior and condition, etc. Nevertheless, many of these sensor systems produce an overload of data, rather than clear and accurate information ready to use by the farmer for him/her to optimize the animal management. The translation from raw data into useful information and decision support requires the development of targeted, robust and interpretable data-processing techniques. Key for this is the combination of state-of-the-art modeling (e.g. machine learning and statistics) with biological and sector knowledge that represent how the data are generated and collected.

In this project, algorithms to monitor the udder health and energy balance of dairy cows will be developed, validated and implemented. To this end, both data obtained from sensors already widely available on modern dairy farms as well as innovative technologies will be used. At the end of this 4-year PhD project, the practical implementation of the obtained models and knowledge will help dairy farmers to increase animal health and welfare, make more efficient use of labor and medicines, improve profitability, reduce environmental impact and create a wider social support for sustainable dairy farming. You will work at the interface of technical expertise and biological/sector knowledge and, after 4 years, have obtained a highly wanted skill set in data editing, interpretation and modeling and model implementation.


To perform this practice-oriented research, the Livestock Technology lab of KU Leuven is looking for a highly motivated and independent PhD candidate. If you:

  • hold a MSc degree (with minimal distinction and obtained in the last 3 years at a university in the EEA) in biosciences, bioscience engineering, bioinformatics, biostatistics, veterinary medicine or equivalent
  • have a creative, critical, analytical and innovative mindset
  • have excellent oral and written communication skills in English
  • are eager to work in a multidisciplinary team of national and international researchers and learn and explore innovative technologies
  • have strong interest in dairy farming, technology and scientific research
  • are interested in building a career in data science

Then you are THE candidate we are looking for and we would like you to apply for this interesting PhD position. Experience with scientific data-processing software (such as Matlab, Python, R, C or equal) and modeling is a plus.


We offer a fulltime PhD position for 4 years, starting on the 1st September 2020 or sooner and with an evaluation after 1 year. Our young, dynamic and multidisciplinary team will support you in all aspects to successfully obtain a PhD degree and a proper scientific training at our top-ranked university. You will work closely together with the research center for dairy production "Hooibeekhoeve" and experts in the field. You will have opportunities to participate at national and international meetings and conferences, establish your own network and gain experience in knowledge transfer.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Ben Aernouts (tel.: +32 14 72 13 64, mail: ben.aernouts@kuleuven.be) or Dr. ir. Ines Adriaens (tel.: +32 16 32 88 73, mail: ines.adriaens@kuleuven.be).

You can apply for this job no later than August 03, 2020 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.