Being aware of the specific time to water plants can be hard for a regular gardener. In recent times, the agriculture industry has had a lot of innovations in this regard to support countries to utilize their water resources efficiently.
Recently a team of researchers from UC Riverside and UC Merced has received over $1 million funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture via the National Science Foundation’s National Robotics Initiative to sign up for the task.
The outcome? The team is creating a robotic pressure chamber that independently samples leaves and straight away tests them to give data on a crop’s watering requirements.
To specify water needs, growers usually hand-pick separate leaves from plants before sending them off-site, where they are placed in pressure chambers. These chambers let analysts put air pressure to find out when water starts to leak from the leaf stems, depicting how soon the plant will need to be watered.
This type of testing is time-consuming and can be inefficient as growers typically can’t dedicate an entire day to testing different parts of a field.
There is an add-on, “the components of the leaf might differ provided the time taken up between being sampled and being analyzed, which in result submit imperfect results,” UC Riverside Assistant Professor Konstantinos Karydis demonstrated in a press release.
As a segment of the UC Riverside group’s project, the researchers invent a robotic pressure chamber that independently samples leaves. The system will collect data from various samples in huge fields, supporting growers to plan the optimal irrigation schedule.
RAPID stands for Robot-Assisted Precision Irrigation Delivery and is the system on which the UC Riverside team is using to build their latest model. This system is the creation of the same team. This model travels through lines of crops altering irrigation flows based on the sensor data.
The latest robot will be developed with a custom-made robotic leaf sampler and pressure chamber that is being created at UC Riverside. This technology will work side by side with drones to monitor the fields and move the robot to areas of interest.
The researchers estimate to have their prototypes made by the spring of 2021, and they expect to have a complete model by winter 2022. After the design completion of all parts, they will make all the designs public to use anyone interested in using this technology.