Missouri Scientist Receives $1.4 Million Grant for Smart Farm Research

A scientist at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, has been awarded $1.4 million in federal funding to advance a fully automated crop monitoring platform. Danforth Center Senior Research Scientist Nadia Shakoor received the three-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation. The funding will be used to develop FieldDock, a “smart farm” platform designed to monitor crops.

“By providing an automated response and actionable management advice in real time, we can accelerate efforts to improve high-value food crops while reducing inputs including water, fertilizer, electricity and fuel used in crop research and production environments during the current field season and before the next crop cycle,” said Shakoor.

The FieldDock system includes a sensor station, a wireless sensor network and deploys an autonomous drone to gather data for agriculture measures, such as crop performance, water usage and soil conditions. The system will operate using renewable energy.

“It’s designed for research, but we do have farmer partners on our team as well who are interested in testing it out and seeing what they can do with it,” said Shakoor.

Jason Bull, Chief Technology Officer at Benson Hill, a Missouri-based agtech company, said the fast-growing startup sees the FieldDock system as a tool that bolsters its own technology. The firm, a crop innovation company dedicated to unlocking the natural genetic diversity of plants, will help test FieldDock.

“Benson Hill’s crop design platform, CropOS, brings together machine learning, big data analytics and biological knowledge to predict outcomes,” said Bull. “Dynamic tools like Dr. Shakoor’s FieldDock integrates cyber-physical systems that gathers data necessary to help power CropOS analytics.”

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