• Claire Benjamin

ARPA-E TERRA program kicks-off


The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) kicked off its new TERRA (or Transportation Energy Resource from Renewable Agriculture) program at a meeting in Pittsburgh on November 12-13, 2015.

The TERRA program aims to develop integrated systems technologies to phenotype energy crops in the field and link promising phenotypes with molecular markers or genes. These technologies will be used to select specific crop varieties with valuable traits for bioenergy production, and increase the rate of genetic gain for yield. The TERRA-MEPP (Mobile Energy-crop Phenotyping Platform) team, led by the University of Illinois, is engineering a phenotyping robot to help identify top-yielding plants in the field as they grow.

The TERRA kick-off meeting brought together all six of the TERRA projects, including members from TERRA-MEPP. Each team presented an overview of the goals of their project and their technical approaches (e.g. genetics, data analytics, sensing, robotics). These overviews allowed researchers to learn more about one another’s projects and identify opportunities for collaboration.

A number of stakeholders and potential end-users of the TERRA technologies, like Sorghum CheckOff, were also present to network. They provided overviews of related fields of research and introduced the TERRA community to additional opportunities for their technologies. In addition, members from current ARPA-E programs, such as PETRO (Plants Engineered to Replace Oil) and MONITOR (Methane Observation Networks with Innovative Technology to Obtain Reductions), presented summaries of their projects in an evening poster session and shared best practices for working with ARPA-E. Illinois' PETRO proejct, called PETROSS, was featured.

On the second day, attendees toured various robotics facilities around Pittsburgh that are involved in developing technologies for agriculture.

The meeting was attended by TERRA-MEPP team members Steve Long, Gutgsell Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology; Carl Bernacchi, associate professor of crop sciences and plant biology, Josh Peschel, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Research Scientist David LeBauer; and Program Manager Ank Michielsen.

This article originally appeared on the TERRA-MEPP website.

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