NPL are the UK’s National Measurement Institute focusing on traceable measurement and metrology.  Collaborating on projects including field phenotyping.  NPL, funded by the UK Government, are tasked with providing unique solutions for the agri-tech industry.  Agritech is the use of technology in agriculture, with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability.

Wheat yield per acre has plateau in the last 10 years. The challenge facing world Seed Producers is to create a variety of wheat that can achieve 20 tons per acre (by 2020) currently the average farming yield is about 13 tons per acre. Government bodies worldwide are aware there is not enough wheat being produced and that wheat yield will need to increase by 70% to feed the population by 2050.

Each year Seed Producers send their wheat seed samples to be graded.  The results are published and farmers then purchase their next years seed based on the outcome of this information.

Phenotyping data is used to guide cross breeding programmes for Seed Producers, with the aim to create a better variety of wheat. Currently data is gained manually with sample crops of wheat being measured by hand with a ruler.  This is very time consuming with measurements being taken across hundreds of plots within the same field; recording the ear length, ear height, volume and spikelet numbers (number of grains per ear). These 4 main areas are recorded to give an indication to the quality of the wheat and how much a particular seed variety could yield.

The help create the next variety of ‘Super Seed’ wheat the method of capturing and analysing Phenotyping data must increase. One way for this to be achieved is it becoming an automated process with the use of the vision system.

NPL, tasked with this solution, have taken the revolutionary 3D technology of the Photoneo Phoxi scanner  to create an  automated vision solution to capture the 4 main plant traits out in the field with a mobile rig.  The rectangle rig is fitted with 2 Phoxi Photoneo scanners capable of capturing a standard sample area of 2 x 5 metres, with a turn around speed of 30 seconds. The 3D point cloud information obtained from the structured light laser scanners is captured with millimeter precision. The multiple images are stitched together with post processing of the cloud formation taking place within MVTec’s Halcon Imaging Software with NPL’s in-house formed algorithms.   The Photoneo Phoxi was also chosen due to its ability to deal with the harsh outdoor conditions, including varying light, from bright sunshine to a cloudy day.

The NPL will supply this service to the Seed Producers, Universities and Research units working on the 250,000 research plots within the UK.