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How Girish Chowdhary's TerraSentia is transforming agriculture

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FARMER CITY,ILLINOIS: In a research field off Highway 54 last autumn, corn stalks shimmered in rows 40 feet deep. Girish Chowdhary, an agricultural engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bent to place a small white robot at the edge of a row marked 103. In addition to plant height, TerraSentia can measure stem diameter, leaf-area index and “stand count” — the number of live grain- or fruit-producing plants — or all of those traits at once. “Our goal is to eventually get the cost of the robots under $1,000,” he said.Farmers don’t need special expertise to operate the TerraSentia, either, Chowdhary said. “Hopefully, by next year we’ll be able to train the TerraSentia so even more users won’t have to be anywhere in the field,” Chowdhary said.For the moment, the TerraSentia keeps a leisurely pace, less than 1 mph.

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