The Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE Project) is actively working to end hunger worldwide by improving the complex process of photosynthesis to increase crop production. As part of these efforts, the RIPE project has opened two new facilities and installed a new camera system to help further our goals.
The Crop Transformation Facility (CTF) was built and completed in August 2020, located across the street from the High-Throughput Phenotyping Facility (HTPF). The two-story 38,428 square foot commercial office building was designed to provide lab and office space for researchers and crop technicians. More photos of the CTF can be accessed here.
In 2021, we opened a state-of-the-art High-Throughput Phenotyping Facility, which includes an 8,000 square foot greenhouse. “Every plant will be weighed continuously, every second of the day, every day of the year, so we’ll be able to determine how quickly it’s growing,” said Stephen Long, RIPE Director and Ikenberry Endowed University Chair of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois. This would allow researchers to speed up gene editing in all of RIPE’s crops of interest. The HTPF currently has 242 Elixia Heliospectra LED grow lights with four different LEDs to output in the near-red, red, white (5600k), and blue spectral regions. Simultaneously, an imaging system called the “plant eye” will run over the plants on a mobile gantry overhead, capturing the height, leaf area, and 3D volume of the plants in just 45 minutes.
In 2021, we installed a large-scale cable-driven camera system, which is the largest system of this kind used for research in the U.S. The RIPE Aerial Plant Phenotyping System (RAPPS), or Spidercam, allows us to collect more sensing data and imagery than ever before.