University of Arizona’s “Field Scanalyzer”

How will sensor technology deliver benefits and value to crop production? This is one of the most intriguing questions in agriculture technology today, and there are some promising in-the-field examples in development.

Field Tour attendees will witness one of these technologies – the University of Arizona’s “Field Scanalyzer” that is being deployed at the Maricopa Agricultural Center, a Research and Extension facility of the University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Supported by a U.S. Department of Energy grant under its  Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program for the evaluation of “energy sorghum” as a biofuel feedstock, the technology combines cutting edge sensor technology with advanced robotics designed to collect and make actionable a vast array of crop and environmental data.

The Field Scanalyzer in Arizona is the largest sensory robot in the world. Its unique sensing system moves along rails, scanning sorghum crops 24/7 in an area the size of a football field. The system’s advanced sensor pack measures the growth and development of a collection of diverse germplasm sorghum with unprecedented resolution, speed and accuracy.

The imaging systems scan the field and generate large data volumes that are used to develop predictive models for plant growth and development through advanced analytical tools and state-of-the-art computational pipelines. Teams of scientists analyze these data and release information that will give farmers valuable insight into the crop’s resilience to grow under limited water and high heat conditions in the Arizona desert — which, in turn, could have a transformational impact on the future of global energy and food security.