A deeper understanding of nutrient variability

A deeper understanding of nutrient variability
Sep 11, 2019

How SoilOptix®’s high-definition soil mapping contributes to precision agriculture

By Ryan Ridley

Zach Harmer, North American Sales and Support Manager at SoilOptix®, recently chatted with Farms.com about the upcoming 2019 Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Tech Showcase, taking place in Calgary, Alberta, on November 26-27. Harmer will be presenting at the conference, reintroducing SoilOptix®’s technology – discussing how farmers can utilize data gathered by the company’s sensors, soil sampling and modeling – and will dive deep into the value of the information gathered to develop a roadmap for crops in western Canada.

Based in Tavistock, Ontario, SoilOptix® produces detailed high-definition soil mapping sensors that can accurately map over 25 different layers including macro and micro nutrients, pH, organic matter, texture, and plant available water. With a resolution of 335 points per acre and data that is easily implemented into variable rate applications, SoilOptix® gives growers a deeper understanding of the variability in nutrients and textural-based properties of their field's soil, which results in better optimization of input placement for economic and environmental gain.

“SoilOptix® services are a step-up from traditional methods. Zones are great for the ‘where are the issues’ but can lack on answering the ‘what’ question. On the other hand, grids provide ‘what are the complications’ but aren’t great for the ‘where are those complications’ because of generalization between the sample points.

“SoilOptix® is able to answer the ‘where are the issues’ and ‘what are the issues’. It’s sharper, quality data for maximizing inputs, making soils more productive – and ultimately trying to achieve a more productive crop. From increasing yield to reducing potential for diseases, breaking down data gathered from SoilOptix®’s technology will create a roadmap for agronomists and growers to begin working in their fields,” explained Harmer.

What excites Harmer about the future of precision agriculture? It’s being able to streamline all precision ag data – yield data, planting data, fertilizing data, satellite data – and providing agronomists and growers with insights based on that high-resolution information.

“Historically, we have just had generalized soil data, so providing that next level of information – the additional piece to the puzzle – will give growers a more complete picture.  This will help  growers to start properly comparing soil information from the field, whether its nutrients or physical properties, to the reaction on yield to the inputs from a fertilizing or seeding perspective, and be able to take all that information and relate it back to soil on a high-resolution scale so that all data sets can be properly compared,” stated Harmer.

What can growers expect from SoilOptix® in the coming months?

“One of the biggest things we are planning to launch this fall is an all new online platform for accessing data. It will allow us to push data through APIs to other partners. Currently growers can access their SoilOptix® data in Climate FieldView and John Deere Operations Center. From a hardware viewpoint, we are finalizing new sensor hardware for wireless mapping. Currently, everything is hard-wired into a laptop, but our next senor will be wireless based so we can use tablets as a map viewer as we go across a field. From there, we can investigate mounting our systems on implements such as tillage or seeding equipment, and even explore autonomous vehicles," he explained.

Precision agriculture is important because margins are tight for growers – especially on years like this where weather patterns are unpredictable. He explained that with tight margins, producers don’t have the luxury of putting on inputs ‘just because’. We need to do a better job of where and what so we can better manage the cost of inputs and ultimately maximize the dollars coming out of the field at harvest.

“At SoilOptix®, we want growers to maximize all their dollars. We break it down into three instances. In terms of when growers get this roadmap and what their field needs, 50 percent of them would have relatively the same input costs, just with optimized placements. The other 25 percent are going to be paying more – maybe we found more trouble areas where we know we can get more out of that soil and crop. The remaining 25 percent are going to be saving money on inputs. Those are the big things we are trying to do.”

The 2019 precision agriculture conference will focus on the practical aspects of precision agriculture, how it can enhance product quality, increase profitability, reduce waste, protect the environment and optimize the use of agriculture pesticides, fertilizers, seeds, water, energy and other crop inputs.

SoilOptix® has been an exhibitor since the conference’s early days. 

From an exhibitor’s standpoint, this is a big show for us when it comes networking. That has always been a main attraction for us – not only between exhibitors, this is a time where we get customers, potential customers and partners in one space. One of the big things I notice about these precision ag conferences is that it attracts the most progressive farmers – those that are willing to take that next step. That’s where we have always seen great value in attending this conference,” stated Harmer.

When it comes to growers, Zach explained that the precision agriculture conference is “the place for learning more when it comes to precision agriculture. Instead of reading about precision ag in the media and papers, growers can meet face-to-face with the experts innovating or updating new products and services.”

SoilOptix® knows all about innovation, the company was recently recognized for its contributions to the agri-food industry, receiving the Excellence in Agriculture, Honourable Mention Award. The award is presented to agri-food businesses, individuals and organizations that have raised the bar for agri-food excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development benefiting their sector, or advanced technological innovation.

“We are honoured to be recognized by the provincial government of Ontario and we want to congratulate the fellow recipients of this award – we are all trying to achieve the same goal of taking agriculture to the next step and to be recognized for our contributions is something we are all very proud of,” said Harmer.

Farms.com is excited to hear Zach’s presentation at this year’s Precision Agriculture Conference and Ag Tech Showcase in Calgary, Alberta. For more information about SoilOptix®, visit: https://soiloptix.com/grower/.


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