Regardless of the weather outside, the ambiance in the Pioneer FAST (Functional Analysis System for Traits) corn greenhouse is nice enough to grow corn—and it's run by robots (with a few exceptions).
By using robotics, digital image analysis and more, Pioneer can more rapidly select desired genetic properties and bring them to market more quickly, says Tim Moriarty, senior research associate.
Plants in individual containers are grouped onto palettes and are positioned on narrowly spaced tables in the greenhouse. With the touch of a button, researchers can use a robotic crane system to move the palettes around or even "fetch" one so they can collect tissue samples.
"This helps us collect data as we traditionally would, but because so much is automated, we can do a much greater volume," Moriarty says. "You go to a workstation, the plants come to you, you take the samples and you’re done."