DARPA APT Proposers Day

Advanced Plant Technologies Program Overview

The goal of the APT program is to control and direct plant physiology to detect chemical, biological, radiological, and/or nuclear threats, as well as electromagnetic signals. Plant sensors developed under the program will sense specific stimuli and report these signals with a remotely recognized phenotype (e.g., modified reflectance, morphology, phenology, etc.). Modern plant biotechnology holds significant promise for addressing a range of Department of Defense (DoD) needs; plants are easily deployed, self-powering, and ubiquitous in the environment, and the combination of these native abilities with specifically engineered sense-and-report traits will produce sensors occupying new and unique operational spaces. The long-term success of engineered plant sensors requires the ability to ensure plant survivability for months or years in a natural environment subject to stresses not present in a laboratory environment. Meeting both the sensor and survivability technical goals of the APT program will require a combination of plant genomics emerging technologies, precision gene editing tools, and novel methods for engineering new sensing capabilities and physiological responses. Proposing teams should include experts in diverse fields including plant physiology, gene editing, biochemistry, modelling, phenotyping, remote sensing, and plant ecology.

Proposers to APT are expected to advance plant synthetic biology for the purpose of bioengineering plant varieties for sensor use. DARPA strongly encourages teaming to ensure the expertise and capabilities necessary to meet program goals. Each established team is free to suggest their own potential sense and response pairs and applications. Proposing teams must include at least one team member with expertise in the proposed operational environment for the stimulus response capability.