Data Scientist - Phd position

BIOBEST has grown to one of the leading companies all over the world in the field of natural pollination and biological control of pests and diseases. Biobest provides a complete selection of natural solutions such as beneficial insects, mites, nematodes, biopesticides, bumblebees, monitoring and scouting systems, pheromones…

With 24 group companies on all continents, distributors in more than 70 countries and over 2000 employees worldwide, we provide growers with tailor-made advice. We focus on vegetables, ornamentals, soft fruits, plant propagation, herbs and medicinal cannabis.

For the head office in Westerlo Belgium, BIOBEST Group NV grants the opportunity to apply for a 4-year Baekaland Mandate (VLAIO) as a Data Scientist in collaboration with Research Centre Hoogstraten and the University of Antwerp (Department Biology, Evolutionary Ecology).

Project description:

The sector of biological control is rapidly evolving. Companies with innovating solutions (e.g. robotization, automatization, vision, artifical intelligence,..) are forcing their way into the horticultural sector. Biobest recently invested in one of these promising technologies and started a partnership with the Canadian company Ecoation (www.ecoation.com). Together with Ecoation we are building towards an (almost) fully automated monitoring of pests and beneficials in fruit vegetable crops in greenhouses. The collected descriptive dataset can be used as input data for the development of a decision support system (DSS) based on predictive predator-prey models. The ultimate goal is the development of a DSS that not only predicts the prey status, but also gives advice on the actions (e.g. release more beneficials, action with biopesticides,..). In this project, we will focus on tomato, pepper and strawberry crops.

Research Centre Hoogstraten (PCH) will be co-promotor of this project. This company is specialized in the cultivation in glasshouses (strawberry, tomato, pepper) and the strawberry cultivation in open air in soil and on tabletops. Practical and demonstrative research in these cultures delivers information and answers to questions risen at professional horticultural companies and growers. PCH will provide the necessary facilities to collect specific datasets in more controlled conditions.

The academic promotor of the Phd project is the Research Group Evolutionary Ecology, Department Biology, University of Antwerp. Important research questions of the group are related to dispersal and population structure, host-parasite interactions and infectious diseases. Their population modelling experience will offer the Phd candidate the necessary support.

Function description:

  • You will be part of the Research & Development department of Biobest
  • You are part of the DSS project team where you will cooperate closely with the different Biobest departments (Business Development, Sales, Technical Specialists) and externally with PCH and UAntwerp
  • You will manage the monitoring database collected by growers and historical datasets
  • You will develop high-level population models (regression models, mathemathical models, machine learning,…)  and publish these in peer-reviewed journals
  • Provide usable population models applicable in real grower situations
  • Provide feedback for the development of the DSS in collaboration with Ecoation
  • Assistance of data collection in the field at PCH
  • You present your results at scientific conferences
  • International travel if required


You have

  • a MSc Degree in agronomy, biology, bio-engineer, biostatistician or similar
    • High affinity for population modelling with necessary mathematical skills
    • Excellent statistical skills (R)
    • Experience with machine learning is a plus
    • Attention to detail

You are

  • Able to work autonomously and in a team
  • A good communicator
  • Creative and solution driven
  • Fluent in English  

Our offer:

  • Application for a 4-year Baekeland mandate September 2022
  • Formal start on 1/01/2023
  • A challenging position in a rapidly expanding, innovative and truly green company with a leading position in biocontrol and pollination worldwide
  • A great opportunity to start & develop your career

Please send you resume and motivation letter to jobs@biobestgroup.com

Application is possible until 8th July 2022

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