Research & Innovation
The key to developing game changing technologies
Innovations: an ongoing process at AgroCares
Our strength lies in data collection, analysis and the translation into field-specific predictions and recommendations. We combine innovative sensor technologies with complex analytical data processing techniques such as data mining and modelling.
The key to success of the solutions developed by AgroCares is the use of on-site and in-situ sensors, operated via smartphone apps and linked to our databases. In combination with expert software we are able to deliver precise and timely location-specific and crop-specific management advice.
Our solutions are developed by our own scientists, but we cooperate with partners from all around the world to stay informed of all the latest developments and to ensure that our products are nothing but of the highest quality.
When the nutrient availability in the rooting zone of a farmer’s soil is lower than required, using results of local field experiments, research reports, literature data and a result of intensive knowledge exchange with our partners we provide an optimal fertilizer plan for soil restoration. Considering the fertiliser availability (organic), composition and price we provide farmers with the required nutrient application rate to reach the desired crop yield and information on how to maintain their soil nutrient status optimal overtime.
Our greatest challenge at AgroCares is to make soil testing possible without the use of chemicals and still provide accurate soil compositions. To us, the most suitable technology is spectroscopy: the specific way in which light is reflected by soil as a function of the wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum. Mid Infrared Reflectance (MIR) and Near Infrared Reflectance (NIR) Spectroscopy can provide detailed information about organic components and texture in soils. While Rontgen (or X-Ray) Fluorescence (XRF) Spectroscopy collects information about concentrations of minerals and trace elements.
Soil sampling is the core of all major SoilCares (one of AgroCares services) activities as the data is used as calibration for the products and sensors developed in-house. A long procedure of statistical calculations is followed for each sampling location to ensure that all environmental and anthropogenic factors are taken into account- land use, soil type, climate data, accessibility, market value, among many others. SoilCares team has built a complex synergy between various databases and algorithms in order to relate all available information. The aim is to find optimal and at the same time sparse sampling locations that can be representative for specific classes, districts, countries or even continents. Every soil sample matters.
The Golden Standard Lab is a vital part of SoilCares. It consists of several researchers, lab analysts and assistants that process all incoming soil samples collected from all around the world. These samples are analyzed with several analytical techniques, including ICP-MS, HPLC, XRF, FTIR and laser diffraction and the data extracted from the separate techniques is combined into one big database. This database is the reference for the samples by the AgroCares scanner and Lab-in-a-Box. Besides the routine laboratory there is also a research laboratory where our researchers continuously improve and develop new sensors and techniques, to add to our portfolio.
Machine Learning plays an integral role at AgroCares, providing predictions of soil's chemical properties from sensor data. Instruments in the GSL produce data, which is added to our database. From this database, we create a number of machine learning models to identify patterns in the data that correspond with the soil's chemical properties. With machine learning we can also reduce the influence of moisture in the sensor data, which further strengthens the accuracy of our predictions. This is all built using fine-tuned versions of the ADAMS and WEKA software, developed with our New Zealand partners.
SoilCares area coverage is expanding continuously, making our need for robust data collecting methods essential. Remote sensing, or more specifically, acquisition of geo-data using satellites and other sensor technologies, allows rapid monitoring of these areas. The mission of SoilCares is to provide help and advise farmers, and this is where geo-data plays a crucial role. The team handling this type of data at SoilCares, makes sure that information is processed correctly and translated into an accurate assessment of agricultural fields. SoilCares strives to provide near-real time crop and soil information and expert advice for crop quality and yield improvement. Image © WorldView/DigitalGlobe
Soil organisms play two crucial roles in crop production. Beneficial soil organisms build up and preserve organic matter, maintain and improve soil structure, mineralize organic material to forms available for plants, recycle essential nutrients and are key to disease suppression. At the other end, soil-borne plant pathogens suppress crop production potential. Knowledge on both beneficial and detrimental soil organisms will enable rationalized decision making in crop production ensuring full use of soils biological capita by for example choosing appropriate crop rotations. We develop soil fungal metabarcoding to monitor soil quality status.