AI in agriculture is not the future; Snows

Cengiz Koparan is assistant professor of precision agriculture technology.

U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Fred Miller

Cengiz Koparan is assistant professor of precision agriculture technology.

Cengiz Koparan knows firsthand the need for agricultural technology.

Koparan planted 1,000 apple trees in Ankara, Turkey in 2004. The challenging work of planting, maintaining and harvesting apples in his orchard helped inspire his mission to put advanced robotics in the hands of more farmers.

Koparan, a new assistant professor of precision agricultural technology for the U of A System Division of Agriculture, said the rapid rise in artificial intelligence is already making cutting-edge technology more available.

“It’s not a future anymore,” Koparan said of the automation of systems and agricultural technology. “Fifteen years ago it was the future, but now it’s here.”

Koparan’s research aims to improve agricultural practices through robotic systems. Part of his research involves using artificial intelligence to reduce labor shortages and make agricultural technology more accessible to producers.

Koparan said that as technologies get more complex, AI could make them more user-friendly.

“Someone has to form a bridge between engineering applications and operators,” Koparan said. “Artificial intelligence can fill part of this gap. If a machine or a robot is based on artificial intelligence, the end user will not have to control all aspects and parameters of the robot.”

Researchers at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, are already investigating numerous applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Scientists at the experimental station are evaluating new weed control technologies, designing systems to determine yield potential from aerial imagery, and investigating the use of artificial intelligence and robotics in chicken processing.

Encourage student involvement

Koparan joined the experimental station in February. He has a dual role, working for both the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering. He is part of the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Technologies in the first, and of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the second.

Since arriving in Arkansas, Koparan has founded an agricultural robotics club at the university and has received a $5,000 student achievement grant from the university’s Global Campus. The grant will fund a recurring Project Capstone course beginning in spring 2024. During the course, Koparan will train students how to build a quadcopter and subsystems for site-specific precision agriculture applications.

The robotics club will compete in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting Student Robotics Club Competition in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 9, Koparan said.

“We need more student involvement in this type of research,” Koparan said. She said she learned a lot as a student in agricultural robotics clubs and sees the agricultural industry adopting these technologies more and more as time goes on.

Koparan received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Ankara University in Turkey in 2008 and a master’s degree in business management from Cambridge College in 2012. Koparan then attended Clemson University, earning masters and doctorates in plant and environmental sciences in 2016 and 2020.

Koparan’s upcoming and current research includes using computer vision-integrated unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to count blackberry blossoms. It is also developing computer vision-based variable speed spraying systems focused on weed control in soybean crops using drones and unmanned ground vehicles.

As a PhD student, Koparan worked on various projects using unmanned ground and air vehicles. His upcoming research into blackberry blossoms parallels one of his previous projects that used image processing to count peach blossoms. He has also contributed research on the development of water quality monitoring tools using drones, which have helped improve watershed management in South Carolina.

His postdoctoral work has focused on precision weed management using computer vision and artificial intelligence to drive an automated drone-based spraying system.

Koparan said his knowledge of engineering concepts combined with his awareness of agricultural practices allows him to explore possible solutions to industry problems.

“When you know how and you know there’s a need, you do it,” Koparan said.

To learn more about the Division of Agriculture’s research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit

About the Division of Agriculture: The mission of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is to strengthen agriculture, communities and families by connecting reliable research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land-grant education system. The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas system. It has offices in all 75 Arkansas counties and faculty on five campuses in the system. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all of its research and extension programs and services regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, information genetics or any other legally protected status and is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

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