Robot gathers data under crop canopy

Earthsense’s TerraSentia gets down to the ground level when it comes to collecting field data information. This new and simple technology was developed at the University of Illinois.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A couple of researchers and the University of Illinois now are in business together as Earthsense, a new service delivering field phenotyping from the ground level up.

Here’s a quick seven questions with Chinmay Soman, Earthsense co-founder and CEO.

Your company name is Earthsense, right? What is your product called?

The company is EarthSense Inc. The robot, including the smart software that makes it useful for field phenotyping, is called TerraSentia.

Who are the owners of the business?

The company was founded by me and Professor Girish Chowdhary. We co-own the company with other EarthSense team members and the University of Illinois.

What is the relationship of the business to the University of Illinois?

I was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow working on agricultural sustainability at the U of I until August 2017. Girish is assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

Much of the early technical work was done at the university in Girish’s lab — the Distributed Autonomous Systems Laboratory — where cutting-edge work on agricultural and outdoor robotics continues to be carried out.

What is the business arrangement you have with the university?

We have an exclusive global license from the university to commercialize this technology. As a part of the licensing agreement, the university also owns a part of the company.

What inspired the invention of this agricultural robot?

Since most of the important events on a field start under the canopy, we created the ultra-compact TerraSentia robot to help capture the actual actionable information rapidly and effectively.

We have currently sold out of our Early Adopter Program for 2018. We are making only 30 TerraSentia robots available for a deeply discounted price of $4,999.

What does TerraSentia do?

TerraSentia can carry a variety of sensors to collect data on traits including plant health, physiology, stress response and others. Currently, it autonomously measures high-value under-canopy markers including stand-count, stem width and stem angle using visual cameras.

We are now teaching TerraSentia to measure early vigor, plant height, corn ear height, leaf area index, biomass and to detect and identify diseases.

It opens dramatic new possibilities in crop breeding, agricultural product development, product testing, crop research and field scouting by improving the speed, accuracy and cost of in-field data collection and real-time analytics.

We are excited to be working with seed and equipment companies, agronomists and university scientists to help improve the kinds of information we can deliver to our partners. We’re planning to bring the robot rapidly to production ag as a tool for field scouting.

Where to find more information? or email at

Karen Binder can be reached at 618-534-0614 or Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Binder.


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