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Integrated Gigahertz Ultrasonic Imager for Soil: Towards Targeted Water and Pesticide Delivery for Biomass Production

Geegah
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$549,000
Location: 
Ithaca, NY
Project Term: 
03/13/2019 to 07/12/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
As the world's need for renewable and low-carbon energy continues to increase, so does the need for biofuels. Inefficiencies in biomass production can affect cost competitiveness with alternative energy sources and increase land-use requirements. Natural resources such as water are becoming scarcer due to increased use in farming, and the leaching of pesticides into underground water tables has significant health risks for the general public. Geegah's technology aims to reduce the use of water and pesticides while providing pathways to improve biomass productivity and to reduce biomass carbon intensity.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Geegah will develop an inexpensive wireless sensor, using ultrasound from MHz to GHz, that can measure water content, soil chemicals, root growth, and nematode pests (a type of small worm), allowing farmers to improve the output of biofuel crops while reducing water and pesticide use. The reusable device will include a sensor suite and radio interface that can communicate to aboveground farm vehicles. This novel integration of sensing and imaging technologies has the potential to provide a low-cost solution to precision sensor-based digital agriculture.
Potential Impact: 
The project aims to demonstrate that GHz sonic imaging provides a comprehensive solution to describe subsurface plant growth. Geegah's system will facilitate improving biofuel plant yields and can be useful across a wide variety of agriculture applications. These findings may lead to new models in precision agriculture and an integrated system for farming.
Security: 
America's farms are a strategic asset critical to national food and energy security. Using farmland more efficiently will enable increased production of feedstocks for fuel, food, feed, and carbon management.
Environment: 
The technology will provide pathways to reduce pesticides and water use in biofuel feedstock production and through greater efficiency reduce energy demands and climate emissions.
Economy: 
Increasing crop productivity will make American farmers more competitive and contribute to U.S. leadership in an emerging bio-economy.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact: 
Dr. Amit Lal
Release Date: 
11/15/2018