The lab of Prof. Nicolai consists of a team of young, dynamic and enthusiastic researchers that investigate processes and technology for improving quality of horticultural products such as fruit and vegetables, with a strong engineering approach. We offer a stimulating work environment for those who are interested in scientific research on the verge of fundamental and applied research, with a high relevance to making a more sustainable world. KU Leuven is a world-class university and ranked 42 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and ranks 7 on Reuters Most Innovative Universities Worldwide (being No. 1 in Europe).


The aim of crop spraying is to accurately place the correct amount of plant protection products on the intended target thereby assuring a healthy crop growth and yield. However, due to different crop and environmental conditions a significant amount of spray may not deposit properly on the target crop and can lead to environmental losses or human health concerns.

Optimizing the spraying process involves a continuous balance between maximizing biological efficacy, and minimizing environmental pollution and residues. To aid such optimization, you will develop Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models to predict the complex interaction between the various factors and flow phenomena involved in spraying for better control and optimization of spray applications.

The research will focus to reveal the spray flow processes over the real 3D crop architecture. You will explore existing and new spray application methods for optimizing target deposition on different relevant crops while minimizing losses. The model will be validated and used in this PhD research to aid the agricultural sector in assuring a healthy food supply from field crops. Finally, a decision support system is developed that can be used by farmers to verify the effects of spray applications.


The lab is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate who is eager to become part of a highly visible international interdisciplinary team to perform cutting-edge research. You have a critical mind and you have good affinity with advanced image analysis, computer modelling and simulation. You are required to have a Master degree (or equivalent) in (bioscience) engineering, physics or mathematics.


The lab offers you a 4 year PhD position. The lab will support you in all aspects in order to successfully obtain a PhD degree and a proper scientific training. You will be given opportunities to participate at national and international meetings and establish your own network. You will have an advanced training in computational and experimental fluid dynamics and work closely with spray application experts. You will have also great opportunities to gain experience in transferal skills.


For more information please contact Dr. ir. Pieter Verboven, tel.: +32 16 32 14 53, mail: or Prof. dr. ir. Bart Nicolai, tel.: +32 16 32 23 75, mail: You can apply for this job no later than September 15, 2022 via the online application tool

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