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Precision Agriculture using Networks of Degradable Analytical Sensors (PANDAS)

University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder)
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,690,415
Location: 
Boulder, CO
Project Term: 
04/01/2019 to 03/31/2022
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Precision agriculture tools have enabled farmers to increase input use efficiency and crop yields while decreasing energy consumption and associated emissions. However, commercially available sensors are bulky, labor intensive, and cost prohibitive and cannot precisely measure soil and crop spatiotemporal variability in extremely diverse fields. For example, nitrogen content in soils can vary significantly over distances as small as 20 to 30 meters, and change rapidly under certain environmental conditions. Improved sensing capabilities will allow growers to produce bioenergy crop feedstocks with lower carbon intensities.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
The University of Colorado Boulder will develop 3D-printed, biodegradable soil sensor nodes to enable farmers to precisely assess soil moisture and nitrogen levels, which will provide insight into crop water and fertilizer needs. These low cost nodes can be embedded in a field to accurately and continuously monitor soil health for an entire season before degrading completely and harmlessly into the soil. This approach could enable real-time soil monitoring by farmers, enabling them to reduce agriculture's energy footprint and water needs and increase soil carbon.
Potential Impact: 
This project's primary goal is to demonstrate the use concept for degradable soil sensors in agriculture.
Security: 
Increasing agricultural production efficiency is important in promoting a robust and sustainable bioeconomy as well as avoiding hunger and political instability in many regions of the world. The technology will position the U.S. as a research leader in a critical arena and maintain U.S. leadership in the bioeconomy.
Environment: 
The technology will decrease energy demands and climate emissions for producing food and feed crops as well as bioeconomy feedstocks.
Economy: 
The technology will enhance input use efficiency, crop yield, and farm profitability.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact: 
Dr. Gregory Whiting
Partners
Colorado State University
University of California, Berkeley
Release Date: 
11/15/2018