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Ag Robot Spurs Data Compilation, Examines Crops As They Develop

A new low-priced, lightweight agricultural robot can convert field scouting and data collection for seed companies, farmers, and agronomists. Designed by a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, the TerraSentia crop phenotyping robot has been displayed on March 14 at the 2018 Energy Innovation Summit Technology Showcase held in National Harbor, Maryland.
Roving independently between crop lines, the robot evaluated the characteristics of individual plants making use of an array of sensors, comprising cameras, transferring the information in real time to the laptop computer or phone of the operator. A tablet computer and custom app that arrive with the robot allow the operator to guide the robot using GPS and virtual reality.
TerraSentia is teachable and customizable, as per the scientists, who at present are designing machine-learning algorithms to “train” the robot to sense and make out common diseases and to compute a rising array of traits, such as corn ear and plant height, biomass, and leaf area index.
The 13-inch-wide robot, at 24 pounds, is so weightless that it can move over juvenile plants without harming them. TerraSentia is also portable and compact. An agronomist can simply fling it in a car trunk or on a truck seat to carry it to the field.
Automating data compilation and analytics has the prospective to advance the breeding pipeline by unbolting the ambiguities of why plant species react in extremely diverse manners to environmental circumstances, said Carl Bernacchi, plant biology professor at the University of Illinois and one of the researchers working on the development.
Information gathered by the crop-scouting robot can assist the plant breeders to recognize the genetic lineages expected to generate the best quality and utmost produces in particular regions, said Bernacchi. The robot is being made accessible to the commercial crop breeders and crop scientists for the breeding season of 2018 through a startup company, EarthSense Inc.