A New Generation of Soil Sensors will Save You Time, Money and Water

Tractor Ploughing Field

The latest soil probes use a combination of nanotechnology, AI, machine learning and cloud technologies to give farmers greater insight into what’s going on below the surface. Manufacturers say the data gathered by these probes will help farmers make key decisions which could ultimately result in bigger yields and save them money on inputs, water and soil analysis. Although these may sound like big promises, these probes are already being used around the globe and praised for their accuracy.

How It’s Done Now

In most cases soil testing is a manual and time-consuming process which can take days or weeks to show results. Often farmers need to outsource soil analysis to experts who deliver data which is sometimes difficult to understand. Many of the probes on the market use wires to connect to a power source or deliver their data, and they often only measure a handful of soil conditions.

What’s New

The latest soil probes are wireless, easy to install and measure a wide range of soil conditions to give farmers a more complete idea of what’s going on in their fields. These probes upload data to the cloud using internet, cellular networks or satellite. The data is analysed and presented to farmers in a simple format which makes it easier to make informed decisions. 

 

In general, the data gathered by these probes help farmers to make better decisions about when and how much to irrigate as well as how to manage crop nutrients and fertilizers. This helps farmers to save money while also producing optimal yields. Farmers can also respond to changes in the soil as they happen and so prevent problems before they occur.

Teralytic (USA)

Teralytic’s wireless probe contains 26 sensors which measure microclimate and soil data. Besides measuring soil moisture, salinity, aeration, respiration, air temperature, light and humidity, Teralytic’s probe is also the first to measure NPK at 3 different depths, from topsoil to below the roots.

The sensors take a snapshot of soil conditions every 15 minutes and the data is sent to the cloud using LoRa Technology, a long-range, low-power wireless platform which can be accessed from any smartphone or computer. Teralytic presents the data on their farmer-friendly dashboard and provides strategy recommendations depending on crop type and the unique profile of the farm. Farmers also get real-time alerts on their phone or desktop when the probes detect poor soil conditions. Teralytic’s use of LoRa Technology means that their probes are suitable for large operations.

Teralytic’s probes are currently being piloted on farms across the globe and they are taking pre-orders for early 2019 on their website.

Teralytic Probe

Teralytic Probe

Why It’s Useful

Measuring NPK at three different depths provides farmers with invaluable information when it comes to soil and crop health.

CropX (USA/Israel)

Sporting a screw-like design, CropX’s soil probes can literally be screwed into the ground. The actual sensors are embedded into the threads of the screw, giving the probe a larger footprint and so providing more accurate readings. CropX’s probe measures soil moisture as well as soil temperature and electroconductivity to determine salinity levels.

 

The sensor uses cellular networks to upload data to the cloud. CropX’s software analyses readings and farmers can access information and notifications on soil conditions via a smartphone app.

 

The good news is that CropX is available in South Africa. Visit their site to find out more.

CropX Probe

CropX Probe

Why It’s Useful

The wireless, screw-like design of the CropX probe makes it much easier to install and maintain. No more worrying about wires getting cut or tangled.

Arable (USA)

Arable’s Mark sensor isn’t strictly speaking a soil probe. It’s an all-in-one weather and crop sensor which measures precipitation, evapotranspiration, radiation, plant health and weather. Arable use this data to make weather forecasts, predict harvest timing and give a detailed view of crop health. The Arable Mark can be integrated with a range of accessories to provide additional data on soil moisture, wind speed and more. It’s easy to install and solar powered, so you don’t need to worry about battery life. It connects to the cloud using cellular networks.

Arable Mark Sensor

Arable Mark

Why It’s Useful

The Arable Mark is the only device to synthesize plant health and microclimate data so that farmers can get an exact idea of what’s going on in their fields without having to wait for satellite imagery or wide area weather forecasts.