The Internet of Things is joining an experimental farm in Australia to spur research in energy efficient crop production.
ABB, the leading power and automation technology group and IBM have signed a new agreement that will transform ABB's Information Systems (IS) infrastructure across 17 countries in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. IBM will provide server and network management, as well as end user and help desk services for the majority of ABB's IS infrastructure operations.
The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF), established to provide innovative research tools to help tackle key issues in plant and agricultural biology, turned to IBM and Datacom Systems SA Pty Ltd, an IBM Business Partner. IBM and Datacom are providing a powerful and energy-efficient system to run the critical imaging application and databases for The Plant Accelerator, a plant screening facility at the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus.
The Plant Accelerator, composed of more than one kilometer of conveyor systems, automated high-throughput imaging stations and robotic equipment, provides continuous measurements of the physical attributes (such as leaf color, size and water content) of up to 2,400 radio-tagged plants at any one time. By linking the measurements to the plant's genetic makeup, researchers will be able to accelerate progress in generating crops that are more disease- and drought-tolerant and more viable on marginal soils.
"We needed a robust, highly reliable and energy-efficient solution able to handle a plant being scanned from three angles to produce 3D images, every 30 seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as store and analyze the vast amounts of images generated," said Lachlan Tailby, IT Manager, Australian Plant Phenomics Facility. "After reviewing and assessing a number of vendors, we determined that excellent service and support as well as local staff and competitive pricing made IBM the ideal choice."
"We worked closely with IBM to develop and deliver the IBM solution," said Tim Fitzgerald, General Manager, Managed Services, Datacom Systems SA Pty Ltd. "We see not only great value in IBM's product offerings but also in their overall partnering strategy."
An IBM BladeCenter holding HS22 and HS21 blades provides the computing power enabling LemnaTec's Scanalyser application to rapidly process new plant analysis. For example, a researcher may look at leaf area under drought stress to determine growth and yield but they can also direct the system to re-analyze some of the more tolerant plants outside the production environment for different attributes such as leaf color.
"This gives us crucial insights into breeding the kinds of smarter crops to help overcome critical food shortages in the face of global environmental change," said Tailby.
APPF chose an IBM System Storage DS4700 to accommodate the estimated 60TB of imaging data The Plant Accelerator is expected to generate annually with a total initial investment in 140TB storage capacity. However, it is expected that within the next two years, The Plant Accelerator will require some 300TB of storage. Additionally, the storage solution with two storage arrays provides APPF with the capability of not only backing up data but also duplicating it so the facility can run multiple plant analysis concurrently thereby speeding up the breeding of new crop seeds.
With the help of the interconnected system, The Plant Accelerator identifies traits that contribute to the better-growing plants using RFID sensors and physically separates them for further testing and cultivation. In the future, the researchers will have handheld PDAs equipped with scanners connected wirelessly to the IBM infrastructure enabling direct access to the data being produced.
"IBM is delighted that APPF chose IBM technology to support its critical research in plant phenomics aimed at developing better food crops and more sustainable agriculture," said Darren Gossling, Business Unit Executive, IBM Systems and Technology Group. "IBM has delivered a highly reliable, energy-efficient IT infrastructure ideally suited to support APPF's research projects for years to come."
For more information on the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, please visit http://www.plantphenomics.org.au/
For more information about IBM, visit http://www.ibm.com.
Phenomics is the study of how the genetic makeup of an organism interacts with the environment to determine the organism's appearance, function and performance.
Phenomics enables researchers to understand and relate the performance of particular plants with their genetic make-up, resulting in the ability to accelerate progress in improving crops - generating crops that are more productive, disease tolerant and viable on marginal soils.
A phenotype is any observable characteristic or trait of an organism such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, or behavior. Phenotypes result from the expression of an organism's genes and the influence of environmental factors on expression of these genes.