Dr. Bob Pilgrim, associate professor of computer science at Murray State University, has invented an apparatus and a process that will enable farmers to better use herbicides on their crops.
He is part of a group that has received a four-year grant of more than 850,000 pounds (sterling) to develop a global positioning system-linked computer-controlled digital camera system that can be mounted on farm machinery (tractors, sprayers or combine harvesters) to map and geo-reference weeds such as black grass that occur in patches in arable crops.
A machine vision system using digital cameras that are linked to image analysis software will identify the weeds present and estimate their densities.
Benefits of the system include reducing the cost of weed control to the farmer, cutting herbicide use and the early detection of herbicide resistance.
The United Kingdom provided funding for more than 30 grants to stimulate the development of new technologies that will increase food productivity, while decreasing the environmental impact of the food and farming industries.
The participants in the grant project awarded by the Technology Strategies Board are five businesses from the United Kingdom—Herbiseed, Patchwork Technology, Masstock Smart Farming, Syngenta and Knight Farm Implement—and one from the United States,
Concurrent Solutions. Concurrent Solutions is owned in part by Pilgrim.
The university participants in the project are Dr. Alistair Murdoch and Paul de la Warr of the University of Reading and Pilgrim of Murray State University.
Pilgrim said he became involved in machine vision for agriculture several years ago when he and Clark Duncan, a graduate student in Telecommunications System Management, applied for and received a $75,000 grant from the USDA to work on an autonomous robot for weed control in row crops. Part of this work led to the development of a plant-specific herbicide applicator for which his company, Concurrent Solutions, has a patent pending.
The work in the U.K. is a continuation of the software/hardware to view and recognize plants in the field.
Pilgrim says that process will help combat two problems with weed control—the spread of the herbicides to water bodies and the increase of herbicide resistant weeds.
A faculty member in the Arthur Bauernfeind College of Business since 1990, Pilgrim earned his bachelor’s degree at Murray State. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Alabama at Huntsville.