Crop-Health Sensors Could Help Cut the Cost of Groceries

The newly developed sensor system has the ability to replace traditional optics.

The compact, lightweight sensor system chip
The compact, lightweight sensor system chip
RMIT University

A compact, lightweight sensor system with infrared imaging capabilities developed by an international team of engineers could be fitted to a drone for remote crop monitoring.

This flat-optics technology has the potential to replace traditional optical lens applications for environmental sensing in a range of industries. This innovation could result in cheaper groceries as farmers would be able to pinpoint which crops require irrigation, fertilization and pest control, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, thereby potentially boosting their harvests.

The sensor system can switch between edge detection – imaging the outline of an object, such as a fruit – and extracting detailed infrared information, without the need for creating large volumes of data and using external processors. The capability to switch to a detailed infrared image is a new development in the field and could allow farmers to collect more information when the remote sensor identifies areas of potential pest infestations.

The prototype sensor system, which comprises a filter made with a thin layer of a material called vanadium dioxide that can switch between edge detection and detailed infrared imaging.

This research by engineers at the City University of New York (CUNY), the University of Melbourne, RMIT University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems (TMOS) is published in Nature Communications. RMIT holds a granted US patent and has a pending Australian patent application for its method of producing vanadium dioxide films, which may be suitable for a broad range of applications.

Original Press Release/More Information can be found at