AI Technology at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center

The Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center (CEA-IC) is a joint project between the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences (SPES) at Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). Approximately eight faculty, staff, and graduate students are currently involved in a variety of research, teaching, extension, and training projects.

One of the focus areas of the CEA-IC is the use of optics in controlled environment research and applications. One project is being conducted in collaboration with Canon Virginia, Inc. (CVI) where the Innovation Center team and CVI are working together to monitor plant health using CVI imaging technology to detect nutrient deficiency and disease symptoms. The team is capturing induced symptom development resulting from biotic and abiotic factors in model crops. The resulting images are then provided to team members at Canon and used to train an AI program to recognize the symptoms of a specific nutrient deficiency symptom or disease symptom. This information is then used to provide insight into disease progression and early detection to assist growers in monitoring crop health.

Another project has been on the development, testing, and utilization of a Spatially and Mechanically Accurate Robotic Table (SMART), which is used to image plant growth and health over time in response to applied variables. The SMART platform features a highly accurate computer numerical control (CNC) 3-axis gantry system that is fitted with imaging equipment and integrated into a plant growth system. Experiments utilizing the table yielded over 2,000 images per plant. Image analysis is carried out through ImageJ and python in order to extract plant growth data, such as pixel count, from each individual image.

In this presentation, several team members form the CEA-IC will discuss the CEA-IC in general and discuss these optics research projects in detail.