New lightweight, low-cost crop robots coming to a farm near you

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In Illinois, the TerraSentia crop phenotyping robot, developed by a team of scientists at the University of Illinois, is a new lightweight, low-cost agricultural robot that could transform data collection and field scouting for agronomists, seed companies and farmers.

Traveling autonomously between crop rows, the robot measures the traits of individual plants using a variety of sensors, including cameras, transmitting the data in real time to the operator’s phone or laptop computer. A custom app and tablet computer that come with the robot enable the operator to steer the robot using virtual reality and GPS.

As part of a phased introduction process, several major seed companies, large U.S. universities and overseas partners are field testing 20 of the TerraSentia robots this spring through an early adopter program. The TerraSentia crop phenotyping robot is expected to become available to farmers in about three years, with some models costing less than $5,000.