INESC TEC researcher among the winners of the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 2022

Do you have a vegetable garden for self-sufficiency? Is it complicated to go there sometimes, to check on the condition of your vegetables? Leandro Rodrigues, a researcher at INESC TEC, developed a technology to help producers monitor the growth rate of their crops. This robotic prototype earned him a place among the winners of the 2022 edition of the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge. 

Leandro Rodrigues, in collaboration with Francisco Terra, also a researcher at INESC TEC, developed a robotic prototype that collect in-situ images of agricultural crops, enabling the identification and classification of plants, using Artificial Intelligence. According to the researcher, this is an autonomous solution that allows constant monitoring, for instance, of a vegetable garden – namely the state of development of plants and their growth, in particular vegetables. 

“This technology can be applied to urban self-sufficiency gardens, often associated with leisure activities and a close contact with nature. Usually, this is a part-time activity, with long periods of absence by the producers. Autonomous solutions, like the one presented, make it possible to constantly monitor the garden, i.e., supervision of crops growth throughout their cycle”, explained the researcher.  

The prototype was developed considering crops monitoring operations, with the possibility of adapting the solution to perform other tasks, like detecting symptoms of pests or diseases. “The integrated development of said solutions shall be useful to optimise agricultural operations, namely by the efficient application of production factors,” said Leandro Rodrigues. 

The research work Leveraging vegetables production with Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision stems from the researcher’s master’s thesis (supervised by Mário Cunha and Filipe Santos, both researchers at INESC TEC), who is currently part of the Doctoral Program in Agricultural Sciences at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP). Leandro Rodrigues was awarded the third place in the master’s category, at Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 2022. According to the researcher, this acknowledgement is an important motivation to keep carrying out his research activities. “It validates the solution’s practical usefulness to society, combining the scientific and technological objectives with the needs already identified by the sector,” he concluded. 

The technology was developed at INESC Tec’s Laboratory of Robotics and IoT for Smart Precision Agriculture and Forestry. Part of the AgriTech4Youngsters project, the prototype also won the FoodLoop competition recently, with a mentoring process currently underway to leverage the solution. “We aim to develop an educational programme to raise awareness of food production and the technology associated with said process among the students’ communities,” explained the researcher. 

About the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 

The Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge, promoted by Fraunhofer Portugal, is an ideas competition that rewards the best proposals based on master’s and PhD theses, taking place at Portuguese universities. Organised since 2010, the competition acknowledges innovative tech-based ideas with a sustainable vision for the future.  

 

The INESC TEC researchers mentioned in this news piece are associated with INESC TEC and UP-FCUP. 

The picture was provided by Fraunhofer Portugal.

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