PheNode, A Remote Field Phenotyping Station

(Nadia Shakoor) My name is Nadia Shakoor. I’m a scientist at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis and we’ve developed a technology called the PheNode, which is behind us. The PheNode is a remote field phenotyping station. It’s designed to help you monitor your crops in real-time as the plants are growing and help make decisions. (Sam Capoun) Nadia says the PheNode is equipped with a whole suite of sensors and cameras that detect things such as light, temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, wind speed, rainfall, and crop imaging. Then the data is transferred via wireless connection to the user. (Nadia) It’s basically tracking all of the different types of measurements that a farmer or a crop scientist would be interested in monitoring. There is also a suite of soil sensors that we’re incorporating into the PheNode, things like soil moisture, soil temperature, nutrient contents who again help farmers make better decisions on when to apply fertilizer, when to irrigate as the plants are growing not just predictably. If there’s brief period of drought you will get an alert on your phone that will tell you to go out and water your crops or turn on your irrigation or even use the PheNode itself because it has an integrated link system. You can actually use it, hook it up to your irrigation systems and get it automatically turned on. The PheNode has been designed to be completely modular in its nature; not only for the sensors but also the way it’s build. Each of modules is about 2 feet tall and is housed with their own suite of sensors that the user can customize. Depending on the height of the crop you can stack the modules on top of one another. For example, for corn you can have an 8-foot PheNode or if you have smaller plants like soybeans or other crops you can actually do a much shorter version in order to optimize the data that you’re collecting and tailor it to your particular crop species. Right now we’re developing prototypes and doing field-testing. We are hoping that by next year, mid next year, we should be able to have prototypes available for data testing and for farmers as well. (Sam) Nadia hopes the PheNode will help farmers produce higher yields and more energy efficient crops, which will be necessary to feeding, empowering and growing a global population. The PheNode is funded by a non-profit research institute called iSelect. The institute based out of St. Louis supports startup agricultural businesses. (Carter Williams) iSelect is a venture capital fund. We invest in early stage companies. We specifically focus in areas like agriculture, healthcare and energy, and in regions, mostly in companies throughout the Midwest. These are young companies looking for capital to grow and we provide that capital.

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