The US agriculture industry is responsible for meeting the growing demands of 330+ million hungry Americans each year. In order to future-proof our food supply chain, it is evident that automation will need to play a more involved role in every stage of the process.
At the ground level, all machinery including tractors, planters, herbicide/ pesticide sprayers, and harvesters are becoming automated to decrease time and decrease labor costs. After the crops have been harvested, automation is present in sorting, packaging and shipping. Automated equipment can run in any weather condition, during all hours of the day, allowing farmers to meet growing demands.
A major component of autonomous farm equipment are cameras capable of processing large quantities of data quickly and accurately. This technology requires cameras capable of seeing beyond the visible light spectrum, into the Short Wave Infrared region (SWIR). Sensors utilizing SWIR technology are capable of seeing through fog and smoke, extreme low light environments, and through the outer skin of fruits and vegetables.
SWIR in Automation
SWIR sensors' ability to see through fog and other weather conditions allows autonomous equipment to continuously operate whereas other image sensors would hinder autonomous vehicles ability to do so. Along similar lines, SWIR sensors are capable of viewing at light levels considerably lower compared to that of a human or consumer level camera. This enables autonomous farming equipment to operate at night, allowing for higher yields, and optically meeting specific needs of various plants. From a quality control stand point, SWIR is also capable of detecting areas of spoilage, moisture retention, and damage in various crops. This technology can save money on fertilizer (as seen in the image below) by detecting the health of the plant based on the wavelengths reflected from the leaves. This would allow fertilizer machines to only target areas in need and not waste product on health crops.
At SeeDevice, we see a new opportunity for our patented CMOS-based Quantum Photodetector to assist farms in meeting food demands. With our world-leading partner in agriculture machinery, we strive to bring our Visible - SWIR range sensor to every aspect of the food supply chain to make a better, more cost effective solution to the current bottlenecks of the agricultural industry.