Artificial Intelligence: Smart Farm Technology To Take The Drudge Out of Plant Breeding
Agriculturists can track the health of their crops in real-time.
A whole combination of technologies has been assembled by researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to take human labour out of crop breeding and growing. Their FieldDock project combines remote sensors, AI, and autonomous drones that run on renewable energy. Danforth Center researcher Nadia Shakoor (pictured above) is the founder of the FieldDock project. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
The objectives of the project are to track the health of crops in real-time without having to resort to human labor and time taken by traditional, manual methods.
Instead of cumbersome field trips to take physical plant samples and then back-in-the-lab analysis, Shakoor wants to automate the process.
“We can’t rely on Farmers Almanac for the last 30 years with historical data because things are changing so much,” comments Shakoor, especially as climate change is radically altering the agricultural environment.
Instead, the FieldDock program will get its data from field sensors and drones surveying the crop with their own cameras. The physical data from the sensors and the visual aerial data from the drones will be combined with plant genetics to get a status report. The farmer receives the report on the crop site, and within minutes, thanks to cloud technology.
Shakoor’s company, Agrela Ecosystems, has developed a smart crop monitoring station called PheNode pictured below.
PheNode is a component of FieldDock. Solar power drives the platform. It measures parameters such as soil moisture, air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and light. Shakoor likens it to a weather station for crops.
Bringing AI and drone technology into the mix is Vasit Sagan, a professor at SLU’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
He is developing the AI algorithms and automating the drones to fly out and land back at the charging station.
What remains is tying up FieldDock’s components into a fully-functioning and automatic system.
According to Sagan, efficient, sustainable farming driven by digital technology could remake the future of agriculture.
The day is not far away that a farmer could get a color-coded map of his crops on a tablet specifying, for example, the amount and location of water or fertilizers to be applied to the plants.
Images credit – Nadia Shakoor and PheNode – https://www.agrelaeco.com/
Danforth Plant Science Center – Bizjournals.com
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