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Optics and photonics are revolutionizing applications within the agriculture industry. State-of-the-art crop cultivation and harvesting technologies are helping farmers and producers better meet high consumer demand. Optics and photonics technologies have proven to be effective tools for applications like imaging, spectroscopy and spectral imaging. In fact, infrared sensing technologies now play key roles in determining the health of soil, nutrient content, and the hydrology of a particular agricultural area.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS), for example, hosts a Hydrology & Remote Sensing Lab that uses thermal infrared remote sensing for mapping evapotranspiration because it does not require ancillary information about rainfall or soil moisture holding capacity.

Another use for agri-photonics is measuring soil health, often indicated by soil bulk density. Soil bulk density is often used as an indication of ease of root growth, water concentration, and overall usability and quality. Agri-photonics is driving innovation and efficiency in the agricultural sector.

Yet another application is to assess the protein content of wheat which determines its end usage, be it bread, pastries, or animal feedstock.