PhD position Improving fertilising properties and reduction of emissions from dairy excrements by novel manure management strategies

Published on
March 20, 2020
Location Wageningen
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We are looking for

Do you want to contribute to a more sustainable future and development of solutions for the circular economy? The Farm Technology Group at Wageningen University & Research is offering a 4-year PhD position to work on improving fertilising properties and reduction of emissions from dairy excrements by novel manure management strategies, commencing 1 Sept 2020. The work of the PhD fellow will be part of the EU FertiCycle Network, which is a multidisciplinary European Training Network (ETN) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. The Ferticycle Network comprises 9 world leading universities and 7 research institutions / agencies/companies in 8 European countries. The FertiCycle Network is currently recruiting 15 highly talented and motivated candidates for PhD studies, with the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to help our network make successful research breakthroughs on new bio-based fertilisers from organic waste upcycling – the chosen candidate will be collaborating with these colleagues for the coming 4 years. Are you interested to read more about the other projects? You can find them on the project website:

The candidate for ESR-1 will further develop innovative methods for sustainable management of dairy excrements throughout the whole chain from excretion up to application in typical dairy farm crops like grass and maize. You will initiate, carry out and be responsible for the activities for three research tasks, being 1) Preparation, characterisation and comparison of various types of urine, faeces and slurry from dairy cows, 2) Anaerobic digestion experiments with the various types of faeces and slurry obtained in task 1, and 3) Storage experiments with the obtained pure and additionally treated types of wastes faeces. Research task 4) An agronomic field experiment with maize and grass where the various types of wastes will be set-up and carried out in close cooperation with ESR9 (fertiliser value and environmental implications). Besides, the candidate will also do a secondment (internship as visiting researcher) at one of the other FertiCycle partners for 1-3 months.

This research builds on previously designed new management systems for the whole manure chain based on segregation (keeping separated) of faeces and urine in the dairy cow house, meaning that no slurry mixture is formed. Model calculations showed that emissions and consequently environmental impacts (global warming, terrestrial acidification, energy use) can be reduced simultaneously by at least 70% as compared to traditional manure management. Further underpinning and validation of these results in either laboratory or pilot conditions is the aim of the current study.

In this position you will closely work together with Dr. Jerke de Vries and Prof. Dr. Peter Groot Koerkamp.

We ask

  • MSc degree in Soil Science, Environmental Science, Agronomy or similar.
  • Laboratory experience with chemical analysis and treatment of organic wastes.
  • Basic knowledge of gaseous emissions from wastes and how to assess them.
  • Knowledge and understanding of dairy farm practices and agronomy in general is preferred.
  • Good skills in data management and analysis.
  • A team player who can work independently and who also communicates well with colleagues.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English.
  • Experience with cross-disciplinary and/or multi-cultural collaboration will be an advantage.
  • For admission to the graduate school PERC of Wageningen University, your MSc degree should be equivalent to a Dutch MSc degree.
  • If the candidate is from a non-Anglophone country and has not completed the higher education with English as the language of instruction, an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language should be submitted. Minimum required scores:
    • TOEFL internet-based 90, with minimum sub-score 23 for speaking
    • IELTS 6.5, with minimum sub-score 6.0 for speaking
    • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) with minimum grade B
    • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) any grade
  • Test results must be dated within 24 months prior to the application.
In order for applicants to be eligible for this position, they have to fulfil certain criteria:
H2020 MSCA Mobility Rule: applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the host organisation (in this case Netherlands) for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date (start of contract). Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status are not taken into account.
H2020 MSCA eligibility criteria: Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) must be, at the date of recruitment by the host organisation, in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. Full-Time Equivalent Research Experience is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him/her to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged).

We offer

In principle this is a 48-month PhD position. We offer you a temporary contract for 12 months which will be extended with three years if you perform well. Gross salary per month: € 2325,-  based on full time employment. You will be appointed as PhD according the Dutch collective university rules. On top of that you will receive a travel and, if applicable, a family allowance.

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural end-of-year bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be figured out in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours per year, plus the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time: the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra and thereby to build up extra leave;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • use the sports facilities on campus.
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for own initiative in a learning environment. We offer a versatile job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
For your application we like to receive a motivation letter, 2 page project proposal and a CV in a single PDF file. Mention at-least 2 references in your application who can be contacted. Please do not send other digital documents in this stage.

More information

For more information about this function, please contact Haris Ahmad Khan, researcher in computer vision at the Farm Technology Group, telephone +31 (0) 317 489 904 or by e-mail

For more information about the procedure, please contact

This vacancy is open up to and including April 14, 2020.
You can apply via the button.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Within Wageningen University & Research, nine specialised research institutes from the Wageningen Research Foundation and Wageningen University have joined forces to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With approximately 30 locations, 6,000 employees, and 12,000 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the unique approach of Wageningen.

For further information about working at Wageningen University & Research, take a look at the special career site.

The Farm Technology Group is embedded in the Plant Sciences Group of Wageningen UR and hosts an ambitious staff from various scientific disciplines, with the goal to contribute to high-tech and sustainable food & biomass production. This mission is achieved by combining knowledge, methodologies and tools from technical sciences such as mathematics, physics, informatics, statistics, engineering design, and robotics, with biological, environmental, and social sciences in order to understand, manage and design biosystems. The group covers arable farming, (greenhouse) horticulture, livestock and fish farming, as well as novel application domains (e.g. insects rearing and seaweed production). Typical research instruments include sensing, modelling, control, machine learning, systems analysis, sensor technology, and engineering design. More information about the Farm Technology Group can be found on

Equal opportunities employer
We are an equal opportunities employer and welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons regardless of their race, sex, disability, religion/belief, sexual orientation or age.

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