Nadia Shakoor Wants to Change the Face of Farming with Drones

November 16, 2020
Former NGA Director Robert Sharp (at left), who joined UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik in signing an Educational Partnership Agreement between UMSL and NGA last year, is joining the UMSL Geospatial Collaborative as a research fellow and will help guide efforts to lead collaborative K-16 workforce and talent development. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Daues/NGA)


Several years ago, Nadia Shakoor went looking for something that didn’t exist. As a breeding and genetics researcher at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Shakoor was measuring how crops grew under specific conditions. She sent students with clipboards into muddy fields to record, for example, plant height and soil moisture. She wondered: Is there a single tool that could automate these tasks? Turns out there wasn’t, so she and her team invented one, the PheNode. Then, in July, she won a $1.4 million federal grant to enhance that platform by adding an autonomous drone. The new tool, dubbed the FieldDock, is 100 percent solar powered—and has some farmers salivating.