UCL Public Policy


Dr Sara Abad Guaman, 'Robotics for sustainable agriculture'

Dr Sara Abad worked with The Soil Association to submit a written contribution on Pesticides and Health.


25 April 2021

Project: Robotics for sustainable agriculture
Partner: Soil Association 
Fellow: Dr Sara Abad Guaman, Research Fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Fellowship programme: Policy Engagement and Impact Fellowship 
Date: April - July 2021

Characteristics, such as high terrain inclination, type of soil, and scarcity of hand labour have contributed to the increased use of pesticides in Ecuadorian farms, which has negative ecological and health effects. Sara Abad Guaman’s interests are in robotics and agriculture and her PhD, funded by the Ecuadorian government, investigated solutions to decrease pesticide use in agriculture. Addressing a key challenge for farmers in Ecuador – the steep inclination of terrain – she developed a bio-inspired robotic hoof to facilitate the mobility of robots in unstructured environments for use in controlling weeds and monitoring the health of crops and soil.

For the Fellowship, she is working with the Soil Association, a charity that works across human health, the environment and animal welfare. Sara worked with the Soil Association to submit a written contribution to the development of a POSTnote (short briefing notes produced by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology to inform Parliamentarians on scientific subjects) on Pesticides and Health. This POSTnote has now been published and our contribution has been cited. Currently, Sara and the Soil Association are organising a roundtable to discuss topics around technologies to improve soil management, support sustainable agriculture, and improve the quantification of carbon capture in the soil. The main outputs of this roundtable will be a contribution to the POSTnote on Managing Soils for Carbon and Plant Productivity. As well as a policy brief summarising the key points and recommendations from the roundtable, Sara will be producing short videos with some of the roundtable participants where they will have the opportunity to go into more detail about the topic from their perspectives.