KEYNOTE: Phenomics at Scale: Driving Advances in Crop Breeding and Smart Farm Management With Insights From Diverse Sensor Platforms and Technologies
With the rapid advancement and implementation of robust and high-quality genomic technologies in the plant sciences, the functional analysis of new genomes is currently limited by the quality and speed of high throughput phenotyping of crops and their environment. There is an immediate need for robust, high-efficiency, low-cost sensor technologies that will not only help agricultural growers reduce their energy inputs, but also collect ground truth microclimate data at a spatial and temporal resolution necessary for researchers to develop and improve high-yielding, energy efficient crops that are resilient to variable climates. Ongoing advances in genomics and high throughput phenotyping creates multiple layers of valuable information that can be exploited to rapidly advance crop breeding. In recent years, major contributions from government and private organizations have been invested in the creation and use of high throughput sensing tools to speed the development and deployment of phenotyping and breeding technologies to benefit researchers and farmers. From small agtech companies like Agrela Ecosystems, Inc. to the TERRA-REF program and the Sorghum Genomics Toolbox funded respectively by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, cutting-edge technologies are being employed to sequence and analyze crop genomes, along with deploying various scales of sensing and imaging platforms (e.g., UAS, tractor-based and indoor and outdoor field scanner systems) to capture millions of phenotypic observations across growing seasons and diverse environments.