Alfalfa bloom prediction using plant images and processing techniques for the purpose of improving pollination using alfalfa leafcutting bees

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2016-33610-25369
Agency Tracking Number: 2016-00980
Amount: $99,363.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.13
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2016
Award Year: 2016
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2016-08-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2017-09-30
Small Business Information
16645 PLUM RD, Caldwell, ID, 83607-0000
DUNS: 079981199
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Venkatachalam Jaiprakash
 Chief Science Officer
 (208) 921-0902
Business Contact
 Anthony Brower
Title: Business Operations
Phone: (208) 971-4022
Research Institution
The purpose of this proposal is to conduct research that will provide alfalfa seed growers a bloom forecast application to improve their pollination practices and increase yield. Most U.S. growers outside of California use Alfalfa Leafcutting Bees (ALB) for pollination because they increase yield by more than 50% over honey bees. Growers spend ~$400/acre for ALB's, yet our customer diligence indicates that a further 250 lbs/acre yield is lost as they are unable to respond adequately to changing bloom conditions in the field.Using test plots provided by our commercial partner and an USDA research lab, we will develop a heuristic for alfalfa bloom prediction using imaging techniques to track the stages of plant development and comparing spectral images with manual observation. Ground sensors will be deployed to calculate the Growing Degree Days and photoperiod needed through the development progression to build predictive models for bloom onset using bud development markers as a basis. Sensors would also track weather, weed, and pest infestations to provide better control windows for bee release and to localize and reduce pesticide use.When commercialized, growers will use a smartphone application to receive a reliable forecast for bloom onset. We estimate we can double the decision window for growers to make the two most important pollination decisions; 1) bee release timing (incubation delay) and 2) pesticide application, resulting in significantly increased yield and revenue while simultaneously improving bee health.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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