Technology, Up Close

South Farm Research Center to host free event April 29 featuring a tractor show, demonstrations of ag-related innovations

Toni Kazic will be on hand on April 29 at the agricultural engineering 100-year-celebration event at South Farm Research Center to give demonstrations surrounding some of the drones she uses for her research, including this DJI Phantom 4, which was purchased last summer with funds from teh Missouri Corn Growers’ Association. Photo by Toni Kazic.

The third and final installment of a series of events to commemorate 100 years of engineering in agriculture at the University of Missouri will be celebrated at the South Farm Research Center on April 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public, although donations will be accepted. All donations will go to the Sandy Zaring Memorial Scholarship Fund (a story about Zaring can be found here). A free hot dog lunch will also be provided while supplies last.

To honor how agricultural mechanization paved the way to greater advancements, a family-friendly tractor show will take place at the venue, located at 3600 E. New Haven Road in Columbia.

“We are hoping to share with the public, in a much larger way, the differences of how the technology has improved over the years, so we’ll have antique tractors alongside new modern tractors,” said Leon Schumacher, the chair of the Agricultural Systems Management (ASM) program, who has been overseeing the event’s planning.

Cutting-edge demonstrations

The event will also include demonstrations of drones and robotic equipment used for high-throughput phenotyping by various faculty members of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. Phenotyping is a multi-step process which assesses the growth, development and yield of plants – as well as other factors such as drought tolerance and the resistance to environmental stressors.

To accurately create 3-D models of plants and collect data both on regions of crops and individual plants, the research team developed a combination approach of a mobile sensor tower (in background) and an autonomous robot vehicle equipped with three levels of sensors and an additional robotic arm. The robot will be on display at South Farm on April 29. Photo courtesy of Gui DeSouza.

Several faculty members (and/or their research teams) who formed the High-Throughput Phenotyping Group (HTPG) on campus a few years ago, will be on hand to show off the cutting-edge equipment being tested. Representatives from a team lead by David Mendoza-Cozatl, assistant professor of plant sciences in CAFNR, will be showing several videos that have been made recently about a new small-plant imaging robot that he has been using for their research.

Toni Kazic, an associate professor in engineering and computer science in the College of Engineering, will be showing the drones that she works with in field studies related to precision agriculture.

The demonstrations will also include an autonomous robot vehicle that has three level of sensors and a robotic arm to create 3-D models of plants. The vehicle, known as the Vinobot, was the subject of a recent academic paper based on the interdisciplinary work of Felix Fritschi, associate professor of plant sciences in CAFNR, and Gui DeSouza, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the College of Engineering.

“It’s lots of toys and lots of videos of toys,” said Heather K. Hunt, assistant professor of bioengineering, who is a member of the HTPG. “There’s going to be a lot to see and touch. I think by coming out and looking at all of this stuff, the public will have a much better understanding of how engineering has impacted agriculture.”

More information

The event will also include quarter-scale tractor pulls, precision agriculture displays and exhibitor booths. In addition, a time capsule ceremony is also scheduled to take place. At the end of the tractor show, awards will be handed out for Most Original, Best Overall Appearance and Best Restoration.

The previous festivities included an open house event at the Agricultural Building on Feb. 10 and a similar event at the same building on Nov. 2, 2016. Although the agricultural engineering program no longer exists at MU, the program laid the groundwork for the Division of Food Systems and Bioengineering (FSB) and the ASM program inside of FSB.

The video above is a trailer for a video project that will be shown at the April 29 event. The videos tell the story of how plant scientists and bioengineers teamed up to build their own high-throughput phenotyping device.