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Collaborative Success Stories: ’Bot on the Trail


University of Missouri scientists have developed a robotic system to collect crucial plant data.

As farmers cope with climate change, they will need crops that better tolerate environmental stress.  With a grant from the National Science Foundation, engineer Guilherme DeSouza, plant scientist Felix Fritschi and a multidisciplinary team of researchers are changing the way agriculturists collect data in the field.

The team invented a cost-efficient robotic system that creates a new way to study the response of crop plants to climate variability. A mobile sensing tower inspects a 60-foot radius of a field to identify areas affected by environmental stresses. Based on the information from the tower, 3-D images of the plants are created and used to extract a broad range of characteristics including leaf area, plant height and growth. Meanwhile, a robotic vehicle with a stereo-imaging camera and several sensors travels between the plant rows for detailed inspection of individual plants and measurements of temperature, humidity and light intensity at three different heights in the plant canopy.

The data collected by the system enables researchers to assess growth, development and other information such as tolerance and resistance to stress. The innovation could lead to new varieties for farmers to grow healthier crops – good news for the growing global population.

Dr. Guilherme DeSouza is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, and Dr. Felix Fritschi is a professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

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Related Initiative(s):
Food for the Future