Portable Spectrograph for High-Speed Crop Phenotyping and Plant Health Assessment

Technology #15864

Device Uses Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Lenses and 3D Printing to Ensure Low Cost and High Performance

This high-performance, portable, lightweight optical/near-infrared spectrograph has applications in high-throughput crop phenotyping, including indirect assessment of canopy temperature, chlorophyll content, water stress, water content at canopy level, nitrogen stress, green area retention, leaf water potential, soil water potential, drought tolerant lines, and overall healthy plant growth and productivity/yield. It is projected that global crop production must double by 2015 to meet the demands of the earth’s population; however, to meet these demands there must be an annual 2.4 percent increase in crop yields. Crop phenotyping allows farmers and researchers to produce crops in a most-efficient manner so that a global food crisis is averted; the widespread use of this technology can help decrease the cost of developing improved strains of crop plants with higher yields, greater drought tolerance, and improved disease resistance. This in turn can lead to the development of plant cultivars “customized” to meet the needs of growers in specific environmental and climatic locales. Available technologies for phenotyping are expensive and cumbersome to deploy in the field, limiting their application to a small number of research facilities in the US and a few other countries. Commercially available portable technologies such as Greenseeker and Crop Circle only provide ratio normalized difference vegetation index (RNDVI) information, which has limited capacity for plant health assessment, and each of these units are tech-heavy and expensive. Fortunately, researchers at the University of Florida have developed a plant spectrograph that is portable in any terrain and capable of operation under a wide range of conditions, due to its simultaneous data acquisition and improved analysis/extraction software. Furthermore, this device may be manufactured for 10 times lower cost than any similar device on the market.


High-performance, portable, lightweight, optical/near-infrared spectrograph for applications in high-throughput crop phenotyping


  • Compact and lightweight design, allowing for simpler handling and improved versatility
  • Construction using 3D printed materials and COTS lenses yields less expensive product, significantly lowering manufacturing costs
  • Use of simultaneous data acquisition and diagnostic software yields more accurate analysis of plant health assessment, creating a more reliable and efficient method for crop phenotyping


The baseline design for this device comprises a small, hand-held unit connected via a cable to a backpack-carried spectrograph and computer unit. The spectrograph consists of a collimator/camera design and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) lenses from Nikon and Canon camera systems for low cost and high performance. The entire spectrograph housing, including the optical mounts, is built using 3D printing technology and lightweight plastic, keeping fabrication costs to a minimum. Once raw spectra are acquired, on-board analysis software will automatically and autonomously calibrate them and extract the necessary plant diagnostics. The device uses proprietary algorithms to extract key health indices – including chlorophyll, water stress, nitrogen stress, and other critical factors. These factors are the key indicators of plant health used to evaluate crop productivity and yield early in the plant life cycle. This information may also be used to provide corrective care (nutrients, water, etc.) to maximize crop yield.