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Farmers are urged to take back control of their soil health before regulations dry them out

With new regulations around nitrogen usage looming, global soil sensing and agricultural analytics leader CropX, is challenging farmers to take back control when it comes to the environmental sustainability of their farms, using new technology.  

CropX provides water irrigation management solutions using their own, patented soil sensors, that are used by thousands of farmers and growers globally, to measure soil moisture, temperature and the electric conductivity of the soil.  

Now, the company has innovated even further, using their existing soil sensors to develop a new method of tracking insights around nitrogen movement through the soil profile.  

This new solution provides the ability for farmers and growers to immediately understand the impact their on-farm decisions such as fertiliser application, irrigation and pasture species choices have on nitrogen movement through the soil.  

“Providing actual data to farmers is now more crucial than ever, with new regulations around nitrogen usage being introduced around the country”, says Eitan Dan, CropX’s New Zealand General Manager.  

By 2025, the Proposed Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan is due to be operational. The plan will put in place requirements to reduce nitrogen leached from farms into the future, therefore it is vital that farmers have access to the right information today, so they can start implementing any required step-changes tomorrow. 

“Our new technology provides farmers with real-time information and data, allowing them to link the changes in soil water nitrogen concentrations to the activities they are undertaking. From there they can fine tune their systems to achieve better environmental outcomes”. 

Extensive research was undertaken by CropX to develop the new solution, which assesses the levels of key nutrients in the soil. These nutrients are available for either plant growth or potentially at risk of leaching from the soil. 

“Farmers are always trying to ensure their pasture has the right amount of water and nutrients available as they grow through to maturity. We know that if too much fertiliser is put on before the plant needs it, the excess dissolves and is leached, if we don’t put fertiliser on soon enough then crop growth is stalled from limited nutrients, and if we don’t put enough water on, even if there are adequate nutrients, crop growth is limited”. 

The solution provides insights for farmers to make proactive management decisions about their crops’ optimal growth at the right time, without risking leaching.  

While modelling systems to understand the impact farming systems and on-farm practices have on nitrogen moving through the soil have been in place for some time, the ability to measure actual data, in real-time, is new for New Zealand farmers.  

Farmers traditionally use Overseer which provides estimates of the amount of nitrogen lost from their system via leaching on an annualised basis. Nitrogen leaching estimates are based on historical farm inputs along with long-term averages and although it is a sophisticated model, it was not designed to support farmers with on-farm decision making. The limitation of this method is that it is a once-a-year number and gives no insight into how a farmer could tactically change their farming practices day to day to improve the actual nitrogen lost.  

“Nitrogen pollution of our waterways from agricultural activity is a major challenge for our farmers to address. However, at the moment they are mostly operating in the dark. This problem is not just limited to dairy, but also horticulture and even to some extent dry stock farming – to maintain their consent to farm, all farmers must reduce the amount of nitrogen leached from their farm systems to the mandated levels”. 

What is most important, says Dan, “is that farmers have the confidence to rapidly make changes on their farms, based on actual, real-time data. Farmers need to know that changes are having the desired outcomes, because without this, there will be reluctance by the majority to quickly adopt new practices and we won’t get the change we need quick enough”.  

That’s where the new CropX technology comes into play, providing farmers with the confidence they need, so they can achieve the environmental outcomes we are all seeking. 

Over the next 12 months, CropX will be releasing further solutions to help farmers manage their nitrogen levels in relation to managing greenhouse gas emissions. This will be in addition to the development of integrations within the precision agriculture ecosystem and advances to the sensor itself. 

About CropX 

CropX provides farmers an unmatched connection to their soil, offering proprietary soil sensor technology and cloud-based Ag analytics that integrate with irrigation systems. The affordable, easy-to-install CropX system helps farmers sustainably increase crop yield and quality by significantly reducing water, fertilization and energy usage and costs, while minimizing runoff and waterway pollution. Founded in 2015, CropX is backed by world-leading strategic partners and investors, such as Finistere Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation Europe Limited, Innovation Endeavors, OurCrowd, Germin8 Ventures, Greensoil Investment, Bosch, Flex, Armada and others.   

Learn more at www.cropx.com.  

Bridgit Hawkins

CEO/Executive Director