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Photonics in Agriculture and Food Systems

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[Smart Farming - UAE USA United]


- Overview

Climate change, overpopulation, and scarcity of farmland and water are forcing people to find innovative agricultural methods to meet the nutritional needs of the planet's population while minimizing their ecological footprint. 

Optical and photonic devices are used in the agricultural industry to avoid harming nearby wildlife populations with heavy machinery, gather information on key indicators for big data analysis, and detect crop diseases early. This enables farmers to use more sustainable, efficient and less toxic methods of producing food.

Photonics is already playing an important role in accelerating the modernization of the food industry and paving the way for more productive, chemical-free, environmentally friendly, resource-efficient and sustainable farming methods.


- Agricultural Photonics

Using optical and photonic techniques, remote sensing data in the visible, near-infrared and thermal infrared bands are used to measure crop health and produce quality. 

Agricultural photonics represents a new branch of research that includes advances in electronics and optoelectronics implemented on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), decision support systems (DSSs), multispectral imaging, and sensing for precision agriculture.


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[Beautiful Flower]

- Spectral Imaging for Agriculture

Spectral imaging refers to a group of analytical techniques that collect spectroscopic information and imaging information at the same time. The spectroscopic information tells us about the chemical makeup at the individual points of the image (pixels) allowing a chemical map of the imaged area to be produced. 

One important way photonics is helping farmers provide nutritious, affordable food is through the introduction of spectrometers and hyperspectral cameras, which allow farmers to detect protein levels in wheat crops, for example, or to spot fruit and vegetable contaminants. 

Optical sensors such as these are installed on unmanned drones, survey aircraft, and even on the edge of the atmosphere and on satellites. They can map large areas of land from great distances, and the optical data generated from this mapping is used to detect and determine changes in crop health and growth.
Photonics is also used to gather evidence of the impact of agriculture on nearby environments. This is valuable data that can be used to minimize this impact and test the effectiveness of measures taken to minimize it.
In addition to monitoring the health and growth of crops and their ecological neighbors, photonics is being used to tackle food waste. Food waste is a growing problem. One-third of all food produced in the world is wasted at some point between harvest and consumption. Photonics devices such as hyperspectral cameras can help farmers determine the ripeness of fruits and vegetables before they are picked, thereby reducing waste at harvest.
Photonics-based imaging and labeling systems are also in place to reduce lead times for food processing and distribution. This means that food can reach consumers sooner after harvest, resulting in less food being wasted as food spoils before it can be used.
Fluorescence spectroscopy devices increase consumer confidence by measuring levels of amino acids, allergens, vitamins and other food ingredients in regulated environments. This means food is less likely to be purchased unusable, further eliminating food waste.



[More to come ...]

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