Working together to help farmers
In the mid 1980s, a team of USDA/ARS researchers comprised of Dan Upchurch, Donald Wanjura, John Burke and James Mahan developed a method and device, named “Biologically-Identified Optimal Temperature Interactive Console” (BIOTIC), for managing the irrigation of plants using crop canopy temperature measurements. Their BIOTIC process is radically different from other temperature-based irrigation schedulers in that it compares plant temperatures to an estimate of the plant’s optimal temperature. In its simplest form, the BIOTIC process continuously measures the temperature of the plant and calls for irrigation when the temperature is above the optimal value. A temperature monitoring system was developed as part of the technology transfer process. This novel method and device was patented on July 23rd, 1996.
The transfer of this technology was initially an in-house undertaking; the USDA/ARS BIOTIC group initiated a multifaceted approach to transferring this invention to the agricultural community. Prototypes were created and tested and extension experts were consulted to determine the combination of hardware and software needs to make the technology functional. An in-house collaboration with Smartfield resulted in a device that met the needs of the agricultural community. In an effort to fully transition this technology from the research lab to the field, the USDA/ARS team transferred the patent license to Smartfield, Inc. With reception of this license, Smartfield developed SmartCrop®. SmartCrop® enables growers, researchers and other users to monitor and make irrigation decisions based on stress accumulation and targets. The USDA/ARS and Smartfield are continuing to work on innovative methods and technologies to help growers manage their crops and irrigation.