The FieldDock looks like something the Skywalkers had on their moisture farm on Tatooine. It has a bunch of antennae and solar panels and in the middle of everything is a bay that opens up to reveal a landing pad for a drone. And while FieldDock is the stuff of the future, this week the project received a grant to make it happen closer to today.
Nadia Shakoor, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, was awarded a three-year $1.4 million grant from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation to develop the FieldDock. Here’s the official description of the project from the press release:
The FieldDock will be a novel all-in-one system that integrates a sensor base station with GWAS/G x E x M/crop model edge processor, remote wireless sensor network and autonomous UAV drone deployment to generate a daily scalable, cohesive and interconnected set of field microclimate data. FieldDock will capture measurable plant traits, water usage, overall environmental and soil conditions as well as daily snapshots of how a crop is performing in real world conditions. The FieldDock platform will run entirely on renewable energy and is designed to ultimately have a zero-carbon footprint.
The data collected by the drone and FieldDock system will ideally be able to help researchers and plant breeders developing energy-efficient crops hardy enough to withstand variable climates, as well as guide crop management and watering decisions made by farmers.
While probably the most sci-fi looking solution to do such things, FieldDock is not the only high-tech solution aiming to help deliver actionable data to farmers. In March, Arable launched the second-gen version of its sensor that monitors plant and moisture conditions on farms. And CropX, which makes in-ground soil sensors, acquired irrigation tools provider CropMetrics at the start of the year.
All of these tools have the same goal of providing farmers with deeper insights into their operations to reduce waste and boost yield. With some money to further develop her project, we’ll see if the Force is with Shakoor and FieldDock.