Researchers use a pair of robotics platforms in hopes of developing drought-resistant crops
Researchers use a pair of robotics platforms in hopes of developing drought-resistant crops.
A team of researchers at the University of Missouri are using a pair of robotics platforms and a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a system for identifying crop strains resistant to heat, drought and flood.
The system developed by the team is comprised of two primary robots — a mobile tower that stands watch at the edge of the crop and a roaming ‘bot deployed by the system to take a closer look.
The resulting data includes 3D scans of the plants (corn and sorghum at present), along with temperature, humidity and light intensity readings taken at different heights — each of which tend to vary greatly, due to an increasing tendency to plant crops closer together.
“A flying UAV is a little cumbersome,” he said.
“You have to have a pilot to fly it, you have to have a flight plan that has to be filed.
Each is equipped with a trio of cameras offering up 3D models of the plant along with biomass volume and thermal readings.
At present, the Vinobot has to be piloted, but DeSouza says the team is working on an autonomous version that can automatically gather data in tandem with the tower.
“The idea is to correlate how the plant is developing with the family, so we understand which family is tolerating the stress better than the others and ultimately to identify the gene that makes those families more or less resistant to those stresses,” says DeSouza.
That information can then be used to cross-breed the most resilient plants, in order to create crops that are more resistant to the changing climate.