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Agricultural Robot May Be ‘Game Changer’ for Crop Growers, Breeders
by Sharita L Forrest (Phys.Org) A semiautonomous robot may soon be roaming agricultural fields gathering and transmitting real-time data about the growth and development of crops, information that crop breeders—and eventually farmers—can use to identify the genetic traits in plants likely to produce the greatest yields.
A team of scientists from the Carle R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois is developing the robot
in partnership with researchers from Cornell University and Signetron Inc.
Inspired by the autonomous rovers used to search collapsed buildings and other dangerous environments, the agricultural robot is propelled on continuous tracks, or miniature tank treads, which enable it to navigate through dry or muddy fields. Researchers guide it using GPS and a laptop computer.
Traveling between the crop rows, the robot uses hyperspectral, high-definition and thermal cameras, weather monitors and pulsed laser scanners to capture phenotypic information—such as the stem diameter, height and leaf area of each plant—and assess environmental conditions, such as the temperature and moisture content of the soil.
The robot stores the data in its onboard computer and transmits it in real time to the grower's computer. Scientists use the data to create a 3-D reconstruction of each plant, develop predictive models for the plant's growth and development, and estimate the biomass yield for each plant and the entire plot.
The team expects to have a prototype built within two years and begin manufacturing thereafter, with the goal of having the robot on the market by 2021. READ MORE