TERRA MEPP (Mobile Energy-crop Phenotyping Platform)

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Champaign, Illinois
Project Term:
10/01/2015 - 06/30/2020

Technology Description:

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with partners, Cornell University and Signetron Inc., will develop a small semi-autonomous, ground-based vehicle called TERRA-MEPP (Mobile Energy-Crop Phenotyping Platform). The platform performs high-throughput field-based data collection for bioenergy crops, providing on-the-go measurements of the physical structure of individual plants. TERRA-MEPP will use visual, thermal, and multi-spectral sensors to collect data and create 3-D reconstructions of individual plants. Newly developed software will interpret the data and a model-based data synthesis system will enable breeders to select the most promising sorghum lines for bioenergy production much sooner than currently possible, dramatically increasing the rate of genetic advancements in biomass.

Potential Impact:

If successful, UIUC will use its TERRA-MEPP system to make in-field high-throughput data collection accessible to breeders and other scientists at a price far below currently available options. The increased speed of data collection and analysis may lead to significant crop improvements.


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


Increased use of biofuels could significantly reduce CO2 emissions from transportation, and improved varieties of biofuel crops could use less water and be more resistant to environmental stress.


The UIUC team estimates that the TERRA-MEPP platform could be deployed at an economical price point that could encourage adoption of this state-of-the art phenotyping platform by small scale breeders and can help improve bioenergy crop varieties.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact:
Dr. Stephen Long
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Signetron Inc.
Cornell University

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