This new robot prototype should accelerate the production of ideal plants by walking through unlimited acres, looking at every plant.
(Crop phenotyping robot)
It's equipped with sensors including hyperspectral, high-definition and thermal cameras, along with weather monitors and pulsed laser scanners. These allow it to collect phenotypic data such as stem diameter, plant height and leaf area, along with information on environmental conditions like temperature and moisture content of the soil.
That data is stored on the robot's own integrated computer, plus it's transmitted to the user's laptop. They can then use the information to create a 3D computer model of each plant, to create predictive models of its growth and development, and to estimate the biomass yield both for that individual plant and for the whole crop.
So far the robot has only been tested on energy sorghum, which is grown as a source of biofuel. It is believed, however, that it should perform just as well with other tall-growing crops such as corn or wheat.
Science fiction films buffs will recall the 1972 sf movie Silent Running, in which Bruce Dern took care of his garden with the help of similar-looking robots. But only on a space craft, not on a county.