Message from the Director

Qin Zhang
Qin Zhang

Designed to offer a framework for precision agriculture and agricultural automation efforts at WSU, the mission for Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems (CPAAS) is to develop a world preeminent and Washington relevant research and educational program in the areas of agricultural automation and precision farming, providing a venue for: (1) High impact research outcomes for our stakeholders; (2) True trans-disciplinary collaboration within Washington State University and world-wide partners; (3) High quality educational and research experiences for our students; and (4) The incubation and development of new ideas relevant in an entrepreneurial climate. In 2015, the CPAAS faculty focused on developing new and valuable knowledge in precision and automated agricultural systems focus areas, as summarized below. Combined, the group had $5,306,775 in grant funding on active projects for 2015.

Developing mechanization and automation solutions for crop production for Washington agricultural industry and beyond is one of the CPAAS research focus areas. Faculty involved in this area of research includes Gallardo, Hoheisel, Karkee, Khot, Lewis, Mo, Musacchi, Taylor, Whiting, and Zhang.  A few representative federal, state, and industry funded research projects include the development of mechanical and robotic harvest technology for fresh market apple, robotic system for fruit bin in-orchard management, mechanized weed control in vegetable crops, and harvesting technology for high-yield tropical biomass feedstocks for biofuel.

Precision agriculture (PA) and decision support is another CPAAS focus area of research. Faculty Carter, Jacoby, Khot, Peters, Sankaran, Tan, Whiting, and Zhang have been actively conducting research activities in developing PA related technologies including in-orchard wireless sensor networks, precision and automated irrigation systems, high throughput phenotyping, sensing, automated fruit harvesting labor management system, and cloud computing based farming management system.

Drs. Karkee, Khot, Sankaran, Taylor, and Zhang have also involved in active research and outreach activities on adopting unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technologies for agricultural applications. A few pilot projects have been conducted to assess the feasibility, and identify and remove the technical obstacles for making UAS practically useful in production agriculture.  One specific project is “Unmanned aerial systems for mitigating bird damage in blueberry crops: A Proof of concept.”

High impact and true trans-disciplinary research led by CPAAS faculty creates an excellent opportunity for our graduate students and exchange scholars to gain quality educational and research experiences. Currently, CPAAS houses 9 graduate students and 5 jointly-trained Ph.D. students; offers capstone design to 12 undergraduate students, and hosts 15 post-doctoral research associates and visiting scholars. All those trainees working on different project took advantage of opportunities to develop their wide-spectrum of research skills and professionalism in a collaborative working environment. Based on the obtained research outcomes, the CPAAS group has published 20 peer reviewed journal articles, made 54 presentations at various professional conferences in 2015, and filed 8 invention disclosures and patent applications and has two faculty serving as editors in international professional journals.

The fruitful CPAAS research has made an impact. A few developed technologies, such as a targeted sprayer for vineyard pest control, an automated labor management system, a hand-held fruit tree mechanical blossom thinner, a high-trellis top twining robot, and cloud-based farming decision system, have been either adopted by individual growers or commercialized by some local manufacturers or technology providers. CPAAS faculty have been invited to serve either as organizers or conveners for 4 international professional conferences and to give 13 keynote or invited speeches in international professional conferences, and 3 faculty have been elected into different leadership positions due to their reputation in corresponding fields.

Reseach & Extension Outputs