farming irrigation

Agricultural robot autonomously counts plants and measures stem width

An agricultural robot that autonomously measures crop traits called TerraSentia has developed by researchers at the University of Illinois.

The robot is capable of autonomously counting plants and measuring stem width to help estimate biomass for corn, sorghum, and soybeans.

Work is also underway to teach it to measure stem, angle plant height, corn ear height, leaf area index, early vigor, biomass, and to identify diseases.

TerraSentia is equipped with two visual cameras, a tablet app featuring a first-person view, and secure cloud software used to store data and teach the robot. The small robot weighs less than 7kg and is less than 30cm wide to fit in most crop rows. After charging the robots can last for 8.5 hours which is around a full workday.

It can also be further customised with GPS to enable autonomous navigation and custom mounts for additional sensors including multi-spectral cameras, hyperspectral cameras, stereoscopic and structured light cameras, and lidar.

TerraSentia will soon be entering commercial production to be ready for the 2018 growing season.


The robot’s developer, Girish Chowdhary, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering, envisions a fleet of these ultra-compact robots roving fields doing simple tasks that will free up precious human capital to work on the big picture.

“Our robot will do the exhausting, time consuming, error-prone part - collecting field data - giving plant breeders and scientists more time to analyse it and make key decisions,” he said.

“What would take a team of researchers tromping through fields with tape measures and other tools to do in several days, our robot can do in several hours.”

Plant-based sensors that are designed for farmers that continuously monitor “water stress” were revealed last month by a team at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. 

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