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Groundbreaking Soil Sensor Saves Money for Farmers and Reduces Environmental Impact

Posted on: 18 Jun 2024

Groundbreaking Soil Sensor Saves Money for Farmers and Reduces Environmental Impact

Researchers at Tyndall National Institute, based at University Cork (UCC), have developed a groundbreaking sensor that will allow farmers to reduce their use of chemical fertilisers.

Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Han Shao with EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness 

This will deliver significant cost savings and a reduction in the harmful environmental impacts of fertilisers, which can cause nitrogen and phosphorous contamination.

As concerns about the environmental impacts of agriculture continue to grow, the need for smart farming technologies has become crucial.

Farmers need to monitor the nutrients in the soil, as well as track environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and emissions from fertilised soils.  This knowledge is vital for crop growth, agricultural production and minimising environmental impacts.

Traditional methods of soil monitoring involve taking physical samples to analyse how the soil changes over time. Farmers compare the results over an extended period, to determine what changes are required to improve the soil. This method is costly and can be inaccurate, as the results are not in real-time.

Tyndall’s ground-breaking Electronic Smart System (ESS) sensor is buried in the soil and monitors nutrient levels in real time. The sensor connects to the Internet of Things (IoT) and uses cloud technology to collect and analyse the data, generating a report for the farmer.

The report provides farmers with real-time insights into changing soil conditions, helping them to optimise fertiliser, reduce nutrient losses and environmental impacts.

This project, which is funded by the VistaMilk Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre, is in line with the EU's Green Deal objectives and the EU’s Farm-to-Fork strategy, which aims to reduce nutrient losses by 50% and address air, soil, and water pollution. By monitoring harmful emissions and ensuring efficient fertiliser use, the development of this sensor contributes to a healthier, more sustainable food supply chain.

Tyndall’s Prof. Alan  O’Riordan, Dr Han Shao and Tarun Narayan,
recipients of the Research Emerging from a 3rd level Institute award
at the 2022 Innovation Arena Awards organised by Enterprise Ireland,
at the National Ploughing Championships 2022

Professor Alan O’Riordan, Nanotechnology Group, Tyndall, said:

This a very exciting emerging technology that does not exist elsewhere in the world. We are now looking at ways to translate this tech into the hands of farmers through licensing or commercialisation.”