University of Iowa receives $1.6 million grant to develop new farming technology

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The way farmers grow crops will soon be changing if engineers at the University of Iowa get their way.

Researchers are working on a tool that aims to help farmers use their resources more efficiently.

The University of Iowa has been awarded a $1.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to design and build devices that could one day connect farmers from all over the world.

What they have created so far is a white, grooved object that, to some, may look like something that would adorn an outdoor pathway light. Nevertheless, University of Iowa professor Jun Wang is hoping it will one day function more like a crystal ball and be used to predict the future.

Wang is the lead researcher on a project to develop sensors that he thinks will allow farmers to better predict the weather and knowing when one should irrigate.

"They're customized to the farmer's needs," said Wang.

As is, this solar panel adorned piece of equipment is designed to collect data surrounding weather conditions like temperature and humidity levels.

The devices do not need to be plugged in and thus can be placed outside in farms throughout the Midwest.

The information the sensors gather will then be uploaded to a digital cloud where the data is published on an app that can show farmers what mother nature may have in store in the days to come.

The plan moving forward is to attach another unit to the sensor that will also measure soil moisture.

"We're going to design another component that goes down in the ground," said Wang.

Once completed Wang believes their instrument will help farmers all over the world maximize crop yields and assist them in their efforts to figure out how to use the water they irrigate in the most efficient way possible.

Wang said if they can develop the technology successfully it will be around a decade before it can be rolled out to be used by the masses.

If that is too long to wait for the farmer in your life, Wang said he welcomes them to help his team in their research by testing our their prototypes. All they have to do is send Wang an email.

Wang can be reached at jun-wang-1@uiowa.edu.