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Transfer of Ideas from Research to Industry: The Case of the United States of America - page 11 / 15





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Because university faculty and other cotton researchers were aware and knowledgeable of technologies being developed and applied for other agricultural commodities, they conceived of the benefits and possibilities of yield monitors for cotton.   Their knowledge of cotton production systems allowed them to think of both the universal and the unique characteristics of cotton and its production.   This allowed them to conceive of potential yield monitors.   Three of those situations will be reviewed here.

The University of Tennessee effort started within the Biosystems Engineering department.  The yield monitor concept was taken to John Deere and CaseIH.   CaseIH reacted first and signed a contract.   They provided development funds with a first right of refusal on the developed technology.  The University of Tennessee patented (Wilkerson, et al., 1999) the technology and CaseIH licensed it from the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.  In turn, CaseIH sublicensed it to AgLeader for commercialization.   “The monitor has a unique Controller Area Network (CAN)-based optical sensor that provides precise, real-time cotton flow information while harvesting cotton,” is available on CaseIH cotton harvesters, and has won an AE-50 award from ASABE’s Resource magazine (CaseIH, 2007).

The early involvement of the private CaseIH provided sufficient funds to accelerate progress in the public sector technology development.   CaseIH took a risk in providing seed money, but it paid off in a product.  Their financial investment allowed a full-time person to work on this project.  Similarly they involved AgLeader at an early point.  AgLeader, the sensor manufacturer, hired one of the co-investigators from the University of Tennessee.

The University of Georgia efforts in cotton yield monitoring were concentrated at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton.  In the early 1990's there were no cotton yield monitors, but there was felt to be a need.   The University of Georgia team had some success in peanut yield monitoring by instrumenting the harvested crop basket with load cells.  So they attempted to apply the same technology to cotton yield monitoring, with some small support from John Deere.  However, the technique was judged to not be feasible after limited experimentation due to the low mass density of cotton.  

The University of Georgia team also did some preliminary testing of a John Deere-developed sensor based upon microwave principles.  However, the system appears to be primarily developed within John Deere.   It is now available on John Deere 9986 and 9996 cotton pickers (Deere, 2007).

As time passed, the main efforts of the University of Georgia group became to demonstrate and test the different yield monitoring technologies.   They put multiple sensors on cotton harvesters and compared them.  These included the AgLeader, AgriPlan, FarmScan, and Micro-Trak cotton yield monitors (Vellidis, et al., 2003), all of which operate on the principle of light beam interception.  Some of this work was funded by a non-profit industry group to help the potential farmer users have an unbiased evaluation (Vellidis, et al., unknown).  

Starting in 1999, the Mississippi State sensor was developed with university funding, in

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