Protected environment ‘root-to-shoot’ sensing and control
As part of a three way collaboration between Sheffield plant sciences (Dr Steve Rolfe, P3 Centre), Manchester electronic engineering (Prof Bruce Grieve, e-Agri) and the sensors company, Fotenix Ltd (Dr Charles Veys), the consortium have been awarded funding from the BBSRC Phenom-UK network to implement Active Multispectral Imaging (A-MSI) within the glasshouse infrastructure in the Sheffield P3 centre.
A-MSI is very different to traditional passive multispectral cameras or simple colour machine vision, due to the orders of magnitude improvement in spectral signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and temporal repeatability it offers.
This is a critical differentiator which enables it to be combined with machine learning to give real-time sensing of the specific sources of crop stress (abiotic & biotic) and output traits (e.g. ripening prediction) in the real-world situations where plants respond to a multitude of conflicting pest, pathogen and environmental stresses.
It is for this reason that the Manchester and Sheffield teams have come together with Fotenix to help support the underpinning research which enables A-MSI to be installed as quantified control measure in vertical farming, field robotics and portable plant diagnostics.
Portable plant diagnostics
You can watch this YouTube video for examples of this technology. As well as this there are two ongoing Innovate-UK projects with industry partners (First Fleet & INFINiTE).
Alongside the benchtop reference unit at Sheffield, which will be commissioned in August of this year (subject to COVID-19 restrictions), a robotic gantry mounted version of the technology is planned at the new Fallowfield Glasshouse facilities in south Manchester.
It will demonstrate the Fotenix A-MSI systems operating and monitoring the controlled stressing of a series of individual plants across their growth cycles.
This facility, which is due to be commissioned in September (again subject to COVID-19 restrictions), will act as a demonstrator unit for autonomous closed loop management of individual plants within a ‘vertical farming’ unit.
The ultimate aim is to then incorporate the complimentary low-cost 3D below ground Electronic Impedance Tomography (EIT) technology, being developed again at Sheffield and Manchester alongside Nottingham (Prof Tony Pridmore, Computer Science).
This will give protected environment crop production the first exemplar of a cost effective and comprehensive tool for simultaneous below and above ground real time management of every plant. The so called ‘root-to-shoot’ measurement paradigm.
As part of the Phenom-UK technology dissemination programme, the team aims to schedule a showcase of these facilities as an online event in late September or early October of this year.
If you want to find out more about that or the A-MSI technology, please contact members of the team:
- Bruce Grieve: email@example.com
- Stephen A Rolfe: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Charles Veys: email@example.com