When you think about field robots, you’ll likely bring up images of small spider-like machines that work in groups to tend the crop. At least those are the types we’ve written about in the past (See “5 robots coming to a field near you.”)
But this week we got wind of a field robot that is being called “the largest in the world” by its creator LemnaTec, a tech company based in Germany.
The robot, which LemnaTec calls its “Field Scanalyzer,” takes pictures of plants to aide in hybrid research. The process is called phenotyping, and it is designed to accelerate hybrid development. This work used to be done by hand, and largely still is. However, because of its repetitive nature, phenotyping is prime candidate for automation, which we learned last year at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers annual robotics competition.
The new Scanalyzer robot moves on a huge motorized gantry that travels down the field recording information about each plant. The data is then uploaded to a central database for processing and analysis.
The robot was built for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and was installed at the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center.
Researchers there are using the robot to help find and develop high-yielding bioenergy crops. LemnaTec says the same system can be used to phenotype any crop.
The system was unveiled yesterday, and the event was attended by some of the world’s leading plant breeders and growers. Some of the names were close to home, including David Ertl, technology commercialization manager with Iowa Corn Growers, and Rick Vierling, director of research and business development with the National Corn Growers Association.
The bottom line for Midwest crop growers is that you can expect to see new hybrids and varieties hitting the market faster thanks to new robotics technology that is making it faster and easier to research crops.
To learn more about the Field Scanalyzer, including a video of it working in the field, visit the Lemnatic website.