John M. Hart


|IT in Ag|Novel Cameras|Automated Inspection|Robotic Systems|


Information and Communication Technology Approach for the ADMI Reduction of Postharvest Loss Project




The intent of this research work is to develop these methods through interdisciplinary collaboration to assist in the collection and analysis of postharvest loss (PHL) investigations and facilitate the research findings utilized to reduce the PHL of smallholder farmers (SHFs). These ICT methods are also intended to monitor and interact with the PHL reduction techniques and interventions being conducted with SHFs in specific villages.


During the first semester of the project, a plan for creating an information ecosystem was developed to aid in the intervention, adoption and collaboration of SHFs involved in the research being conducted during this project and those beyond this study as well. The goals behind the information and communication system, shown in the interaction of the blocks in the diagram below, is to provide a central place for the collection of information so it can be monitored, shared and acted upon. In addition, as the number of SHFs and villages in the efforts expand, the system can be used to automate routine functions and tasks, which are now being done by researchers and field investigators in person and by hand. In the future, the system could automatically use incoming information to make decisions and/or automate certain aspects using feedback control loops.


Major Elements and Interaction between Components of the Information Ecosystem


The primary components currently being developed for our ICT plan are the Smallholder Farmer Information and Advisory Portal, the In-The-Bag Sensors, the Sensor Data Collection Hub, and the Field Investigator Phone App, seen in the diagram above and further described below.


Other components in experimental stages are the following: computer vision methods to automatically classify visual qualities of grain, a quality test kit to standardize grain quality levels, and a solar changing system to support electronics where power is not available.


Smallholder Farmer Information and Advisory Portal



The SHF web portal is intended to store all of the information on intervention methods, farmers involved, and training and education methods in one central site and also keep track of on-going interventions as the number of smallholder farmers involved increases. University researchers and field investigators can keep track of farmers, via their individual profiles, on their progress and analyze data coming in for use in the field. SHFs will be able to ask questions, report progress and post grain available for sale using their cellphones through text messaging (for farmers not equipped with smartphones). Incoming data from grain quality sensors will be uploaded and can be monitored by university researchers as well.


Wireless In-The-Bag Sensors


The In-The-Bag (ITB) Sensors will continuously collect temperature and humidity readings from inside individual grain bags undergoing storage. They were designed (in consultation with Prof Paulsen) for university testing and monitoring of SHF grain on remote farms during interventions. They communicate wirelessly through Bluetooth technology, which does not require internet access (usually not available in remote villages or on farms). These sensors provide continous condition monitoring without the need for opening or sampling grain bags or traveling to remote locations.


Sensor Data Collection Hub


The Data Collection Hub receives the temperature and humidity data from multiple ITB Sensors in grain bags nearby (e.g., kept locally in a farmer home or university lab). Upon receiving an update from the ITB Sensors, the hub will analyze the data to determine any out-of-range parameters to verify the condition of the grain and if it is in jeopardy. If immediate action is required to preserve the quality of the grain, the hub will send a text message to the farmerís cellphone (smartphones not typically available) through the available cellular network, in addition it will also send a message to the web portal.



Field Investigator Grain Meter App



The Grain Meter App has three primary functions; the first function is to allow university researchers and field investigators to use their smartphones to set up the sensor systems by wirelessly communicating with the data collection hub to set parameters such as the number of sensors, the farmers cellphone number, etc., the second function allows the field investigator to query a hub, that has been in the field collecting data, and retrieve and graph the historical information about the grain conditions that has been stored in the hub, the third function provides a direct link to a single sensor for obtaining current readings, this allows the sensor/phone combination to act as a wireless moisture/temp meter.


Computer Vision Methods to Determine Visual Qualities from Images of Grain


CornInside.pngIMG_0017.CR2SuperimposedMap.jpgThis project involves an investigation into the use of computer vision techniques to automatically determine quality factors based on visual properties found in images of grain samples. The end result would be software to analyze and classify photos of grain taken by a farmer, field investigator or trader to provide consistent and objective quality evaluations with a simple photo.


Grain Quality Measurement Kit for Standardizing Grain Quality Procedures


GMQ Kit Display ModuleThe Grain Quality Measurement (GMQ) Kit is being designed to provide uniform testing of grain quality between smallholder farmers and traders. The GMQ Kit will contain several pieces of portable test equipment and a simple display and interface to the guide the user through the testing. The kit also contains record keeping electronics to automatically store the results as part of the procedure. The data can then be retrieved or routinely uploaded through the cellular network (where internet is not available) for analysis of accumulated data for current quality and incremental improvements in grain produced in villages under intervention.


Solar Charging System for Powering the Sensor Data Collection Hub


This project set out to design a solar powered charging station which will continually power the existing data collection hub when a power source is unavailable. The system is intended to continuously power the data hub even through conditions of periodic days with reduced sunshine. In addition, a port for allowing SHFs to charge their cellphones is also being developed.






|IT in Ag|Novel Cameras|Automated Inspection|Robotic Systems|