Grant boost for hi-tech crop monitoring system

PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 June 2016 | UPDATED: 06:30 25 June 2016

CropQuant field trial at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Anthony Cullen

CropQuant field trial at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Anthony Cullen

Anthony Cullen

A Norwich-based biotechnology team has secured almost £50,000 to improve a computerised crop-monitoring device which could bring benefits to precision agriculture.

Researchers at the Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), in collaboration with the John Innes Centre (JIC), have designed the CropQuant system, which uses Raspberry Pi computers to control in-field cameras, continually capturing and processing growth images.

In-depth analysis is then conducted on TGAC’s high performance computers, allowing scientists across Norwich Research Park to link environmental data with observed crop development.

The project aims to enable plant breeders and farmers to improve crop yields through field-based phenomics – measuring the physical and biochemical traits of organisms as they change in response to genetic mutations and environmental influences.

Implications for precision agriculture could include accurate timing for fertiliser and irrigation applications, the ability to spot diseases earlier and respond to stresses such as frost, heat and weeds.

Dr Ji Zhou, phenomics project leader at TGAC, said: “The emerging field phenomics market demands cost-effective and reliable phenotyping devices, which can automate crop growth measurements and extract key yield traits data in a realistic field environment.

“CropQuant will provide an affordable solution to prevent crop losses, contributing to food security, as well as industrial and academic purposes.

“The device has a real potential to function as a service for agricultural practitioners and will benefit precision agriculture practices in the East Anglia region.”

To perfect the CropQuant design, the team has been awarded £49,075 from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, which is run by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) with support from New Anglia LEP, Norfolk County Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, and other local authorities.

Mark Reeve, chairman of the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, said: “The device will enhance in-field testing, allowing for greater accuracy and precision, whilst identifying threats to crops such as frost or pests. I look forward to seeing the results of TGAC’s research and the impact of the device on farmers and growers in the East of England.”

For more information on Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative grants, click here.

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