Agricultural Engineering: Sensing, Control, and Automation

Modern agriculture is no longer limited to development of cultivation tools but focuses on automation and control, advanced local and remote sensing, precision, post harvest treatment of biological materials, machine-soil interaction, energy efficient development, and much more. The agricultural engineering group deals with various topics related to mechanics and to sensing in both to classic agricultural engineering, as well as to all fields of environmental engineering and water systems.

Automatic Control in Environmental, Water, and Agricultural Engineering

Activity in the field of automatic control includes both analytical and numerical studies, as well as experimental research. Theoretical studies mainly aim at developing tailor- made algorithms for control synthesis and optimization for dynamic systems. Unique to environmental, water, and agricultural engineering, the systems are accompanied by development and adaptation of numerical computer-aided design software. A particular effort is being made to develop software for robust control systems design, i.e. for systems whose differential equations’ description is uncertain. Experimental studies are carried out in laboratories and in the field, often in cooperation with other researchers from the faculty, the Technion, industry or other research organizations. Examples include climate control in experimental greenhouses, control of autonomous field vehicles, control and optimization of water delivery systems, and the control of desalination and water treatment plants. The experimental studies aim to find the simplest possible controller that satisfies given specifications, and to provide data for modeling and theoretical and numerical studies.

Monitoring of Agro-Biological Systems

For a number of reasons, environmental and agricultural systems are typically difficult to monitor and model. First, there are typically a large number of components and factors that cannot be controlled and that interact non-linearly. Second, experiments with plants or living organisms cannot be easily replicated. Finally, measurements must be made in harsh environments (for instance dust, strong solar radiation, variable illumination, etc.), which cause the data to be noisy and affected by strong disturbances. Activity in the field of agro-environmental monitoring focuses primarily on the development of efficient methods for analyzing such data. Most of the work is devoted to the analysis of high-dimensional data such as spectroscopic measurements and hyperspectral images. In addition, the development of a new system enabling large-scale time-resolved hyperspectral imaging of laser-induced fluorescence has recently been completed. This system will be used to monitor primarily soil-plant-air interactions.

Post-Harvest and Biomaterial Properties

Quantitative assessment of various component characteristics in agricultural production systems involves the challenges of non heterogeneous material and conditions. The transfer of sensing technologies from physics, such as spectroscopy, electrical characteristics and acoustics, or from chemistry and biology to agriculture presents is challenging. It requires signal analysis methods and complex measuring techniques. Knowledge of measuring biomaterial properties is essential for high quality food production.

Machine-Soil Interaction

For more then five decades, by the agriculture engineering team has researched soil-machine interactions. The research group has acquired unique expertise in theoretical, experimental and numerical simulation integrated models capable of providing on and off road machine performances, such as vehicle dynamic behavior.