• Automated Phenotyping

Automated Phenotyping

400 plant phenotyping system custom built showing location of control PC with operator, and imaging/loading loop

WPS provides both fully automated systems and semi-automated systems. Some clients need the full automation to ensure that experiment protocols are very closely followed, others happily trade total plant capacity for automation level if the budget requires making a choice.

Essential to a digital phenotyping system is the transport system, in many cases a conveyor based infrastructure, capable of handling tens-of-thousands of plants daily. Integrated within the transport system are other components such as watering and weighing stations, manual loading loops, and specialized robotics for handling potted plants, leaf punches for biochemical and genetic assays or spray cabins. The WPS conveyor systems are unique since they are developed only for the transportation of plants, and therefore highly optimized, both technically and commercially for exactly this application.

Some facts and figures:

  • Used on >100 facilities around the world both for phenotyping and professional horticulture.
  • Combined length of WPS conveyors today is >2000KM (>1200 Miles)
  • >1,000,000 RFID fitted plant carriers are used daily
  • System capacities vary between 200 & 100,000 plants per system
  • Individual plant throughputs up to 7000 plants/ hour are achieved
  • Many of our clients use ebb/ flood/rain irrigation with the plants on the conveyor and not reliant on watering weigh stations
500 Plant Automated Conveyor System with Multi-Purpose Imaging Cabin: 1- This section of the conveyor is counter-balanced and simply lifts up, manually, for easy walk-though access to the imaging area and watering module. 2- Plant growth and conveyance area. 3- Imaging station. 4- Watering and weigh station.

The design of each conveyor system is highly adaptable to the requirements of each individual user. WPS has the unique engineering capability to make a highly customized design built from proven and reliable components that have been successfully used in commercial production settings for over two decades.

The patented plant carrier design from WPS offers maximum plant + pot flexibility and greatly reduced system loads. Push frames allows for larger pots and taller plants.

Automated Phenotyping: WPS Unique plant carrier
Work-horse of the WPS conveyor product suite is the plant carrier. This has a very distinct design and there is a very good reason for this- it enables functionalities that facilitate reliable conveyor construction that can be of dozens of meters in length with hundreds of kilos of plants loaded onto it, with just one single motor. This results in extremely high degree of design freedom, energy efficiency and smooth operations plus investment savings.

WPS plant carriers are designed to accommodate plant transport throughout the phenotyping system.
The carriers have several functions:

  • Increasing plant stability
  • Define spacing between plants on the conveyor
  • Allow buffering of carriers to optimize efficiency of the system
Positioning of plant carriers in a queue- note the potential space saving on the conveyor. Plants are able to be separated by empty carriers.

The WPS plant carriers have a feature that is unique, working in close cooperation with the WPS conveyors. When the plant carriers are in a buffered state (stored on the conveyor growth area within the greenhouse), they make contact and lift each other almost entirely off the moving conveyor, eliminating all friction between the running conveyor and the plant carriers. You can even stop >100 kg of objects on the conveyor with just one finger! This creates the following advantages for the user:

  • Reduced driving force increases system controllability
  • More freedom in design
  • Safer to operate the system
  • No collision impact on plants and better, more homogenous growth conditions
  • Lower friction
  • Lower maintenance costs due to less wear and tear
  • Lower noise levels when operating the system

There are different carrier dimensions that are suitable for different plant dimensions- eg sugar cane which can have a high centre of gravity and may require a wide conveyor to accommodate large plant pot dimensions. Nonetheless, the unique WPS plant carrier is designed with inherent flexibility to transport different pots of a variety of dimensions and of course, a range of plant trays.

Moving field
In order to reduce plants touching during longitudinal movement of carriers over a conveyor during a handling
WPS has developed a mechanism that almost entirely reduces the longitudinal movement of plants to other plants when standing in the conveyor field.

This mechanism releases carriers row by row, and after the last carrier has been released the entire field of carriers moves one position towards the output side of the growing conveyors.