Wireless nitrate soil sensor could cut fertilizer use
The researchers say the value proposition to their sensor product is the reduced time-to-data it offers farmers. Designed to mimic plant roots and be buried in the soil just below root level, the sensors provide real-time data about soil nitrate levels so farmers can immediately make adjustments to fertilizers and irrigation (applied together, this is called fertigation).
"Currently, obtaining this type of data requires taking multiple soil samples, which involves a lot of labor, and then the wait for lab results," Carroll said. "Our technology's real-time data would enable highly site-specific management of fertigation."
While the company is focused on precision agriculture at the moment, they have their sights set on broader markets.
"We're developing a technology that will allow us to expand into the gardening and home markets, as well as into industrial applications such as drinking water and wastewater monitoring," Carroll said. "Using a supramolecular interaction has the potential to improve a wide range of applications."
The $120,000 from Oregon BEST will support deployment and field testing of 150 sensor prototypes in 12 different geographical locations, in tandem with manual soil testing to ensure the data generated by the sensors is accurate over time and in different soil conditions. The company plans to test the robustness of the sensors throughout a growing season, starting this spring. It is currently seeking farmers of fertilized and irrigated crops willing to participate in the study.
"This project leverages an important scientific discovery and our regional strengths in agriculture to advance a technology that could prove to be transformational in reducing costs for farmers and pollution in our planet's water systems," said David Kenney, President and Executive Director of Oregon BEST. "Oregon BEST is happy to be able to help accelerate this effort."
The Oregon BEST funding is also enabling acquisition of equipment, including a UV-Vis spectrometer, and expansion of one of the analysis labs in the UO's CAMCOR facility that will aid future sensor development work at the university.
The company previously participated in the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program, winning the "Best Team" Award out of 25 teams that participated in the 6-month course. In addition to the Oregon BEST funds, the company was awarded a $180,000 National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant and a $250,000 Gap Grant from ONAMI.
- Fall tests for nematodes help keep crops healthy
- National Agricultural Genotyping Center announces partnership
- Surging soy, U.S. dollar quotes highlight Friday futures trading
- EU’s leading plant scientists call for action to defend research
- Digi-Star introduces WeighLog hydraulic weighing system
- Surging U.S. dollar values weighed on ag markets Friday morning