Field Phenomics

Purdue plant breeders, engineers, computer scientists, and aviation scientists are collaborating in a space that impacts our entire food production system - the field. What was once a laborious and time-consuming process, is now automated for measuring characteristics such as plant height, nitrogen content, and photosynthetic activity. This is called phenotyping, the process of measuring and analyzing observable plant characteristics. Phenotyping in the field allows researchers to observe and measure phenotypic data in large quantities from remote sensors in the air and on the ground under variable environmental conditions. Understanding this variation will help farmers and plant breeders grow better crops regardless of the environment. Purdue is applying automated, high-throughput phenotyping platforms and advanced approaches at the 1,408-acre Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE) research farm to collect information at the canopy, individual plant, and tissue levels. The following resources are available through the Institute, allowing Purdue researchers to more quickly identify how and why genes are expressed.

Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center (ICSC)

Purdue’s automated field phenotyping facility designed to yield profitable innovations to feed a growing population

  • State-of-the-art technologies for plant processing, seed analysis, threshing and shelling, advanced sensing, and data management
  • $15 million, 25,500 square-foot facility
  • Capable of producing 10 Terabytes of data per week

Visit ICSC website

Precision Measurement Zone

Pilot program at Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE)

  • 27 acres
  • 7 researchers; wheat, sorghum, maize, and soybeans
  • Flights once a week starting spring 2017, weather permitting
  • Allowed for experimentation with data analysis techniques on a smaller scale
  • Further application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) at ACRE and benefits to researchers to spot potential problems and monitor growth and plant health

Contract Flights

Low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) services for Purdue researchers

  • Professional pilots
  • Custom-built and commercial aircraft designed for agricultural sensing

Phenotyping Platforms

A variety of innovated platforms at Purdue utilize RGB sensors, laser-based radars and LiDAR, Thermal Infrared Sensors and other remote sensing devices to measure variation in crop performance.


The PhenoRover is a semi-automated mobile, ground-based vehicle that carries a sensor package capable of measuring numerous plant traits in a large number of research plots in a single day. The PhenoRover roams throughout research plots capturing real-time data to measure variations in crop performance.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Purdue students are designing and building airplanes, also known as "drones," which are equipped with advanced sensors configured to optimize the collection of diverse phenotypic data. Each flight generates approximately 400 images, which are then stitched together using the latest geo-referencing techniques to visualize plant traits and characteristics.