Creating Farm Monitoring Technologies to Improve Economic and Environmental Performance

Pennsylvania must meet statewide targets to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus delivered to the Chesapeake Bay.  While some progress has been made since 1985, a lot more work needs to be done. The Center for E3 and Leena Pattarkine, Ph.D., Professor of Biotechnology are collaborating with TeamAg to develop and demonstrate low-cost tools for monitoring of water quality on farms in Pennsylvania to improve their economic and environmental performance.


The project will measure farm stream water quality by installing real-time Water Quality Measuring stations on upstream and downstream locations of on approximately thirty Pennsylvania farms in both the Chesapeake and Delaware watersheds. Key water quality parameters (temperature, pH, Conductance, Dissolved Oxygen, Turbidity, water depth) will be monitored to determine farms’ soil loss and to learn how farm practices within a watershed impact water quality.  On annual basis, a drone survey will be done of farm streams to accurately measure annual streambank erosion. Annual soil loss calculations (tons of soil/acre) from each farm will be developed along with the following comparisons to assess how well the farms have performed:

  • Calculated soil loss from farm’s conservation plan
  • Total Sediment from Watershed (tons/acre basis)
  • Total Sediment from Chesapeake Bay Watershed (tons/acre basis)


The Center for E3 will augment this methodology to include additional monitoring not only of water quality but also soil quality and product quality control/food safety. This will be accomplished by including:

  1. Additional monitoring points:
    • soil
    • streams/water bodies
    • produce washwater
  2. Additional parameters:
    • Agrochemicals
    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Pathogens

To accomplish this augmentation, HU will develop/refine/employ inexpensive environmental biosensor monitoring technology developed by Dr. Pattarkine.

This more robust and comprehensive monitoring model is intended to provide farmers with a full suite of data with which to monitor and improve economic and environmental performance.  HU-developed technology will provide farmers with new, affordable, easy to use, real-time monitoring technology.

In subsequent phases of the project, HU will seek to develop prototypes of current biosensor monitoring technology into cost-effective real-time continuous monitoring technology, and eventual commercialization of device(s).