Harnessing the power of AI and robotics for crop monitoring

Earth’s growing population and climate change are prompting many researchers to consider how technology can help agriculture.  Aiming to help farmers maximize productivity and produce quality, Dr. Sigfredo Fuentes is developing drone-mounted and AI-powered sensor technologies to monitor pests and diseases in crops. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining traction in many different research areas. Our research applies these principles to agriculture, food and animal sciences, integrating digital sensors with robotics and AI technology. The main objective is to obtain versatile and accurate models, which allows us to automate the prediction of very complex processes that determine an important goal. These can be productivity, risk and management of environmental hazards, quality traits of products and consumer acceptability. For this project, the focus was on implementing newly developed, low-cost electronic noses and machine learning to detect pests in crops, using the integrated sensors as a payload of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining traction in many different research areas. Our research applies these principles to agriculture, food and animal sciences, integrating digital sensors with robotics and AI technology.

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

The efficient identification and management of pests and diseases in agriculture have been important problems since their invention. Current methods focus on manual monitoring, which usually detects pests or diseases when they are already attacking the crops. This project focuses on integrating digital gas sensor technology into a low-cost electronic nose (e-nose) carried by a low altitude drone that could smell insects using artificial intelligence. These tools could be an important advancement for monitoring and managing pests and diseases in agriculture using a digital approach to secure yields and produce quality.

This project focuses on integrating digital gas sensor technology into a low-cost electronic nose (e-nose) carried by a low altitude drone that could smell insects using artificial intelligence.

Why did you choose this area of research?

I have been fascinated with digital technology since I was very young and how these technologies can facilitate manual labor. Through my university and doctoral studies, I have implemented different digital technologies in agriculture, such as sensor and remote sensing, to monitor various aspects of crops such as growth, water, nutrient status, and productivity. My postdoctoral and current research areas are mainly focused on developing computational tools using integrated sensor technology and AI to solve important agriculture problems, such as the effects of climate change in agriculture, water scarcity through smart irrigation scheduling and pest/disease management.

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone? 

By 2050, an increased population (10 billion) will require double the amount of food needed today with only half of the arable land. Climate change predictions have forced researchers to think outside the box and look for more smart and automated methods to be implemented in agriculture. This project could detect pests and diseases in crops more accurately and efficiently through volatile organic compounds in the early stages. This information would be critical to growers for decision-making and management purposes to secure maximum productivity and produce quality.

This information would be critical to growers for decision-making and management purposes to secure maximum productivity and produce quality.