New precision Ag Project would help farmers measure plant moisture


One of the biggest challenges in managing large field crops is knowing how much water each section of a field needs, but determining that accurately is a cumbersome process that is not very efficient as it requires a lot of time.

Computer Science and Engineering Chair Professor Stefano Carpin, Environmental Engineering Professor Joshua Viers and professors Konstantinos Karydis and Amit K. Roy-Chowdhury at UC Riverside recently received a more than $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the National Science Foundation’s National Robotics Initiative to address these challenges, so they are developing a robotic pressure chamber that can harvest its own sample leaves and test them on site, immediately, to provide the freshest data. The system will work to gather data even in large fields and over a period of time and this will help farmers to plan irrigation frequency and conserve water and to optimize the time and effort.

The team will use the same base robot as RAPID (Robot-Assisted Precision Irrigation Delivery), which travels along rows of crops adjusting irrigation flows according to sensor data that tells the robot precisely what’s needed for each plant. Moreover, it will be equipped it with a GPS and a pressure chamber and will be paired with drones that can survey the fields and direct the robot to areas of interest.

The project, based on four phases is planned to have a completed setup by Winter 2022 so they can begin controlled field testing.

The research partnership with UC Riverside will advance the capabilities in precision food systems broadly, and will contribute to the presence of UC Merced and CITRIS in the emerging San Joaquin Valley ag-food-tech sector.

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