Automated TERRA Phenotyping System

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College Station, Texas
Project Term:
10/01/2015 - 10/31/2018

Technology Description:

Texas A&M University, along with Carnegie Melon University (CMU), will develop a rugged robotic system to measure characteristics of sorghum in the field. Traditionally this type of data collection is performed manually and often can only be collected when the crop is harvested. The team from CMU will create an automated gantry system with a plunging sensor arm to characterize individual plants in the field. The sensor arm of the gantry system allows the team to collect data not only from above, but to descend into the canopy and take measurements within. The team will utilize machine learning algorithms to interpret the field data and correlate them to plant phenotypes, molecular markers, and genes of interest linked to the field phenotypes. TAMU will incorporate this technology into its world class sorghum breeding program to increase the rate of genetic improvement.

Potential Impact:

If successful, the Texas A&M team will help develop new and improved sorghum varieties for commercialization.


Improved biofuel crops could lead to increased production of domestic biofuels, reducing dependence on foreign sources of transportation fuels.


The genetic improvement achieved through this project could increase the use of biofuels and help significantly reduce CO2 emissions from transportation, and improved varieties of biofuel crops could use less water and be more resistant to environmental stress.


Advanced crop and breeding techniques could improve and lower the cost of developing high yielding and high quality crop hybrids for biofuels and other agricultural applications.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Rachel Slaybaugh
Project Contact:
Dr. William Rooney
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Carnegie Mellon University

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