Global plant phenotyping specialist LemnaTec has unveiled the largest field robot in the world, capable of continuously monitoring the development of crops under real growing conditions.
The new Field Scanalyzer was built for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as part of a program to “develop tools that enable an increase in the rate and extent of genetic improvement of the yield of bioenergy crops grown in the field”.
The machine is installed at the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center in Arizona.
A huge motorized gantry, which can be positioned to an accuracy of within a few millimeters, travels down the field recording detailed information about each plant. The data is then uploaded to a central database for further data processing and analysis.
Pioneered in the U.K. at the Rothamsted Research Centre, this revolutionary machine enables scientists to monitor crops in a field environment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On board illumination facilitates the data collection and sensors include multi-wavelength imaging systems, an imaging sensor to measure chlorophyll fluorescence decay kinetics and a laser system for 3D visualization and crop height determination. Together these sensors will enable detailed monitoring of crop physiology, plant architecture, crop health and plant function.
At the opening ceremony, a ribbon was cut by Dr. Ellen D. Williams, director of the ARPA-E, who was joined by representatives from the U.S. Government and directors of the world’s leading plant breeders and growers.
According to LemnaTec, the technology will have a positive impact on plant research and in the long term contribute to food security and sustainability programs. A reduction in the length of time required to develop new varieties is a further benefit.
Ben Niehaus, chief technology officer at LemnaTec, said, “operating day and night, the Field Scanalyzer will move a payload of advanced cameras and sensors across a research plot measuring over one acre in area, generating arguably the most detailed measurements ever recorded for a bioenergy crop.
Here is a video on the Field Scanalyzer: https://www.youtube.com/user/LemnaTec2008