Khalifa University and Silal Sign Collaboration Agreement to Build UAE’s First Centre of Excellence for AgriRobotic and Automation

January 16, 2024

Joint Research Center to Accelerate Agri-Robotic and Automation Innovation in Agriculture and to Provide Training for Students and Farmers


Khalifa University of Science and Technology and UAE’s leading agri-tech food company Silal Food and Technology today announced they have signed a collaboration agreement to create a joint Center of Excellence in Agri-Robotics and Automation. The partnership will leverage robotics and automation advancement to transform the agriculture sector in the UAE and beyond.


The agreement was signed by Professor Sir John O’Reilly, President, Khalifa University, and Salmeen Al Ameri, CEO, Silal Food, in Abu Dhabi. According to the agreement, the primary objective of the partnership is to build a joint research center – Centre of Excellence for Agri-Robotic and Automation – to drive innovation in agri-robotics and automation in agriculture, and exchanging technical knowledge and resources. The agreement also facilitates the transfer and commercialization of research outcomes, with researchers and students from Khalifa University leading the study, through internships and collaborative programs. Joint workshops, symposiums, and conferences will also be organized to facilitate collaboration and the exchange of research ideas.


Professor Sir John O’Reilly said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Silal and offer our robotics research expertise in the agriculture sector. Khalifa University is at the forefront of scientific research in the field of robotics and automation and is committed to furthering the education and training of our students through internships and collaborative programs. This partnership will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and foster research and development aimed at promoting sustainable food production in the country, in line with the directives of the UAE leadership.” 


Salmeen Al Ameri, said: “The advancement in robotic and automation science has a significant role to drive efficiency and sustainability in the food production systems. At Silal, we are building an ecosystem to bridge research capabilities and industry requirements. Our partnership with Khalifa University is a crucial step in this direction, to transfer scientific knowledge and expertise into practical solutions to sustain our food systems.”


The proposed research center, to be located at the Innovation Oasis site of Silal in Al Ain, will feature a dedicated autonomous greenhouse equipped with various robot platforms, sensors, and Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure. This cutting-edge facility aims to support the development and pilot research conducted by scientists and start-ups from Khalifa University, who will also oversee the innovation activities in the Center in collaboration with agritech experts from Silal, who will manage the day-to-day operation.


Under this partnership, Khalifa University and Silal will develop support programs for startups, as well as training programs for Khalifa University students and farmers. The collaboration will also involve the development of project proposals, securing funding for collaborative projects, and the exchange of expert personnel, including faculty members, researchers, and students.


The Center will undertake research projects in collaboration with Khalifa University’s Center for Autonomous Robotic Systems for plant monitoring and interventions.


The Center will develop intelligent and cost-effective robotics solutions aiming to transform current farming practices. The Center will research crop monitoring utilizing AI-driven robotic platforms and computer vision to detect early-stage diseases and reduce the use of agrichemicals. The Center will also research novel autonomous robotic systems in food production including soft robot end-effectors and grippers to handle soft fruit and vegetables, thus enabling precision agriculture.


Alisha Roy
Science Writer
16 January 2024