© 2018 The Authors Major increases in crop yield are required to keep pace with population growth and climate change. Improvements to the architecture of crop roots promise to deliver increases in water and nutrient use efficiency but profiling the root phenome (i.e. its structure and function) represents a major bottleneck. We describe how advances in imaging and sensor technologies are making root phenomic studies possible. However, methodological advances in acquisition, handling and processing of the resulting ‘big-data’ is becoming increasingly important. Advances in automated image analysis approaches such as Deep Learning promise to transform the root phenotyping landscape. Collectively, these innovations are helping drive the selection of the next-generation of crops to deliver real world impact for ongoing global food security efforts.