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New Data-Sharing Tools Advance Farming Research Globally

PhotosynQ – a handheld device with sensors and an online data-sharing and analysis platform – has enabled a team of Michigan State University researchers to create the plant-science equivalent of Facebook.

Following the trail blazed by successful social media networks, the team is giving away patentable devices at a nominal fee, building an active global community of plant science enthusiasts and sharing all data collected from around the world.

The goal is to allow even citizen scientists to make research-quality measurements, said David Kramer, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor in Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics.

“We’ve built a platform that everyone can access through their cell phones,” he said. “We want to create a community that sees a 12-year-old student in China ask a question about a drought-resistant plant. Then we hope that hundreds of people answer, and not only the student in China is able to grow sustainable crops, but also a farmer in Africa could benefit from those insights.”

One component of PhotosynQ is a handheld device that costs about $100, scans plants and collects a handful of key data points. Via a smartphone running Android, the data is transferred from the device to the researcher’s project page on the PhotosynQ platform.

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