The future of farming relies on data; the more data farmers have about plant health, the more efficiently they can grow their crops. The total yield would be higher, and overall costs potentially lower. But, currently, data is gathered from dispersed sensors that monitor a crop’s overall condition by checking the temperature, moisture, and other indirect attributes through the soil. New wearable sensors that are attached directly to plants could provide more granular data on individual plant health.
The sensors were developed by a team of researchers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabi and from the California Institute of Technology in the United States. Those sensors are integrated into wearable patches that are very similar to the ones we’ve covered that are designed for humans. They use a small rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts an average of 151 days, and log data every two seconds. That data can then be gathered via a Bluetooth connection.
They patches would, theoretically, be cheap enough to deploy on plants throughout a crop. But, that could easily amount to thousands of plants, and the job would be labor-intensive. So, they also developed a second sensor system called PlantCopter that can be dropped from drones. Once deployed, the 3D-printed PlantCopter sensor devices drift slowly to the ground like dandelions. They provide data more akin to traditional dispersed sensor systems, but remove the labor associated with setting those up. Both systems could substantially improve crop yields, and that’s good for everybody.