Applying soil-passport approach and precision farming technologies to improve overall soil health & sustainability
Ploutos’ Sustainable Innovation Pilot 6 (SIP6) aims at rationalizing the use of fertilizers and phytopharmaceutical products, thus ensuring soil health and the preservation of natural resources.
The Pilot highlights the importance of new technologies for optimised fertilization and points out that the implementation of a soil passport system provides an important incentive (i.e. financial reward) to the farmers, instigating a behavioural change (i.e. maintaining or improving soil health).
How does the pilot work?
The main challenge to be tackled by this pilot is the optimization of the process of fertilising the fields.
At the moment the majority of farmers in Slovenia are not using any means of targeting precision fertilisation or pesticides.
By applying specific fertilisation plans, farmers could reduce costs and reduce impact on the
environment. In order to achieve this, the current state of the soil in the field needs to be monitored and
captured. Therefore, the main parameters that define the health of the soil need to be determined and
various methodologies are needed to measure these parameters.
This includes the pedological profile of the soil, satellite and drone imaging to detect plant anomalies and mapping of soil characteristics and soil sampling for lab analysis to determine the soil health in terms of nitrate concentration etc. The collected data should be digitally recorded, stored and made available to a fertilization planner that provides a plan for the farming practices (farmer’s calendar).
These data will be modelled based on standardized data formats and semantics and will openly be shared through standardized APIs. The respective datasets will feed scientific models (coded as computing algorithms) in order to generate predictions and recommendations on farming practices that need to be applied.
Unlocking the power of 4 key insights
Through the implementation of the pilot, some key insights were gained.
The challenges and problems faced so far, help us gain a better understanding, create sustainable innovations that will rebalance the agri-food value chains and move towards a fair agricultural system.
Outcomes: Important outcomes include:
the implementation & testing of a smart fertilization service (in 8 farms);
the automatic application of fertilization (based on the data collected);
fertilizer reduction, by an average of 25%.
Practical Recommendations: Careful selection of the participating farmers to ensure that the “sine qua non” requirements are met (i.e. specific equipment and large-scale fields).
Consistent monitoring of the fertilization indicators.
Problems: Certainly, as with all projects that bring digital transformation to the foreground, its implementation is not without challenges. Such is the time-consuming individual meetings held with the
farmers to inform them of the technological solutions, check their equipment and solutions and train them on the use of the machinery.
Outlook: Overall, it is important to ensure that the farmers have machines compatible with variable rate
application maps and that their fields are of adequate size. Moreover, it is estimated that a 3-month period is required for the collection of accurate data.