Combined imaging, spore sensing and robotic application platform, to improve the precision application of fungicides and biopesticides


Since their widespread commercialisation in the 1930's, the use of pesticides has driven increased yields in agriculture that have allowed us to feed an ever-growing human population. However, with raised awareness of the potentially negative environmental impacts of these products, future food production systems will need to continue to sustain our dietary needs whilst using fewer chemical inputs. This cannot currently be achieved by ceasing pesticide use however, as without the protection they offer global yields would be reduced 30-40% at a time when we must produce more food than ever before. Nevertheless, by utilising modern developments in 'agri-technology' it should be possible to reduce the amount of pesticide that we need to apply to protect our crops by applying it in a more targeted and well-timed manner.

Many pesticides, and especially fungicides (that target crop diseases) are currently applied to crops using 'calendar-based' approaches as blanket applications. This means that whole fields are subject to fungicide treatment, regardless of whether crop diseases themselves are present, or only pose a risk in parts of the crop. More targeted 'variable rate' applications are currently used for other crop inputs such as fertilisers, allowing production to be maintained (or increased) using a fraction of the chemical input. However, it is not currently possible to emulate this 'variable rate' approach for fungicide use, as detecting and mapping crop disease is technologically more challenging than detecting and mapping crop nutrient stress. Accurately applying fungicides at different rates to small areas of a crop field is also a barrier, requiring 'smart' application technology.

By combining recent advances in disease sensing technology, disease imaging capability, spray application science and autonomous robotics-based farm machinery development, it is now possible to envisage an end-to-end system capable of meeting the challenge and driving forward 'precision fungicide' application. The current project aims to develop and integrate available cutting-edge science and technology solutions in these areas to both realise this vision for current conventional crop chemistry, and review its future potential to deliver emerging crop protection products such as biopesticides.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Crop Health and Protection Limited, YORK £249,301 £ 249,301


Small Robot Company Limited, Gosport £777,587 £ 544,311
Newcastle University, United Kingdom £119,362 £ 119,362
Fotenix Limited, Manchester £325,650 £ 227,955


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