Agriculture & Food

Photonics is becoming a major player in the Agrofood industry. The speed and accuracy of light sources will be of tremendous help to farmers and food specialists to improve their products. During PHAPPS week you learn how your Agrofood business can benefit from photonics technology.

Detecting crop and water quality
Photonics is becoming a major player in the Agrifood industry. With its advanced optical sensing methods photonics can help farmers to determine the protein levels in wheat harvests, screen for contaminants in their planted fruits and vegetables and observe water quality to measure the health of fish stocks, to name a few examples.

So-called ‘lidar’ (light detection and radar) systems use light signals to accurately map large land area’s. They can be mounted on a plane to measure large-scale crop effects in agricultural regions, for instance.

Efficient food quality testing
Another promising application of photonics is the improved ability to measure food quality. Contaminated food causes more than two billion illnesses per year. In developing countries two million children die each year from consuming unsound food and water. Photonic methods are much more efficient than existing chemical lab analysis to trace food and water pollution. This is because photonics is able to see the infrared range, where polluted molecules and isotopes can be easily identified.

A LiDAR system mounted on a plane measures the geometry of the earth with unprecedented precision

Examples of Photonics in Agriculture and Food

airborneAirborne Lidar for high-precision maps
Lidar (Light Detection And Radar) is a photonics technology based on laser. Mounted on an aircraft Lidar technology is able to create maps of extremely high detail. The Lidar sensor sends invisible near-infrared light pulses to the ground. The distance is then calculated by recording the time the light pulse takes to travel from the sensor to the ground and back.

By emitting hundreds of thousands of light pulses per second, the precise geometry of the earth can be measured from the points of reflection. This is how a ‘point cloud’ is generated. The higher the number of points, the denser and more realistic the 3D model is.

Traditionally, large swathes of land are captured by flying aircraft at great heights. This means point density is reduced, producing results as low as 3-5 points per square metre. The method is used for measuring tree height in a forest, for example. But the end result is a surface that lacks detail. Read more

PepsiCo installs vision-inspection system responsible for the detection of colour defects in whole potatoes
PepsiCo installs vision-inspection system responsible for the detection of
colour defects in whole potatoes, an operation that will reduce costs and improve in-bag chip quality by rejecting unsuitable potatoes before they are even processed.
Independently of the steps that precede processing and packaging, X-ray imaging of the finished food portions follows for metal detection. Read more