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TIGR2ESS: Transforming India's Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies

A Global Challenges Research Fund project

One of the consequences of the Global COVID-19 pandemic was the impact on the availability of migrant labour. This was particularly felt in agricultural and agricultural research, particularly in India. For a new variety of a crop to be produced and come to market it first needs to be assessed under numerous field conditions. This is a very labour intensive process requiring numerous staff to measure many traits from height, to flowering time, to biomass, throughout the year. With a labour shortage researchers are faced with a stark choice between either assessing fewer traits across many varieties or assessing fewer varieties for the normal number of traits. The first choice gives a less accurate assessment, possibly resulting in the selection of poorer varieties. The second approach runs the risk of missing a high performing variety.

Currently, technologies do exist that can perform a lot of the assessment required for field assessments but, unfortunately, they are usually costly and/or require a high level of technical expertise. For example, height, biomass, disease pressure can all be assessed using images captured from a drone. Unfortunately, the cost of drones are beyond most research groups globally and require someone capable of flying the drone and converting the images to meaningful data. A low cost alternative is needed.

As part of TIGR2ESS, NIAB will be working to develop a low-cost, open-source and mobile in-field device, the FieldCAM-Quant (FCQ), for assessing field trials as a potential solution to the current field assessment issues.

A drone flying over wheat research plots. An effective phenotyping tool, but cost and expertise required can be an issue for some research groups.


The primary aim of this project is to develop a cheap, mobile tool that is easy to construct and use. As such, a prototype FCQ will contain three key components: (1) modular construction to enable fast assembling and simplify transportation, (2) camera mount, and (3) controller. The hardware design will be kept simple and easy-to-assemble. As technology will inevitably move on, extra points on the framing system will be included for additional attachments for future sensors.

Once the FCQ is assembled, image acquisition is a simple process as cameras can be controlled using a simple smartphone. As part of the project, we will develop a protocol to store and perform basic analysis on the smartphone, giving instant readouts to the user. Alternatively, stored images can be analysed on a computer using the same protocol at a later date.

Development of this device has already started and it will be tested over the coming months at NIAB. 

Future use

Once produced, the FCQ can have a real impact in both developing and developed countries. Due to it’s low cost, open source nature it can be deployed in any location by someone with minimal training. A single worker will be able to assess more varieties in a day for more traits thus doing the work of multiple people. This will both compensate for the current labour shortage and increase the capacity of those using the device. An added benefit of the FCQ will be the consistency of measurements. Most visual measurements performed by humans are subjective. Measurements produced by the FCQ will be comparable with those taken by other groups globally.

The FieldCAM-Quant will provide a useful tool to researchers as sustainable food production becomes more difficult as a result of climate change, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and now, safely, War in Ukraine.

A schematic of the FIeldCAM-Quant design and an image produced by the prototype.

Article written by Robert Jackson.