Testers wanted for soil tech project

By: Cat Fitzpatrick

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World Soil Day launch of $1.1m project to help farmers better manage their soil

Testers wanted for soil tech project
Researchers are looking for early adopters to test new soil management apps


Decades of soil research from the University of Sydney will go directly into the hands of Australian farmers with the launch of its Soil Tech Project, the university says.

The three-year project aims to translate the university's soil science research into six free digital tools designed for use by farmers and land managers.

The planned tools include improved soil sampling techniques, better visualisation of available soil data, a farm-level weather forecasting application and better soil management strategies that will help agronomists and land managers reduce the costs and time associated with soil management and crop production. 

To ensure the tools meet the needs of the farmers using them, an action-research approach will be used to document the process, so that other universities, agtech companies, and research, development and extension organisations can learn from the collaboration and replicate it.

Funded by a $1.1 million Landcare Smart Farming Partnership, the project will be run by agricultural consultancy Andrea Koch Agtech in cooperation with the Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney, as well as Australian agtech start-up Farmlab and AGRIVision Consulants.

The groups are now looking for early adopters to field test the applications as they are released and during the design process.

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Andrea Koch, principal of Andrea Koch Agtech, said she was excited to bring agile development to the translation of existing science into practical digital tools for farmers.

"It’s a big step forward in Australian agtech," says Koch.

"Developing these tools is not only great for Australian farmers; the approach we take will demonstrate a new pathway for stranded science to be translated into action through agtech development, supporting future research and innovation methods for Australian agriculture as a whole."

Professor Alex McBratney, director of the Sydney Institute for Agriculture and Professor of Soil Science at the University of Sydney, says: "This is a great project for us because we are working directly with the people who will use the science that our research has generated. It is great to bring our expertise in soil informatics together with the agtech developers to deliver real impact for land managers."

Sam Duncan, CEO of FarmLab, adds: "These methods have been sitting in journals unable to be used on farms, for decades. I’m excited that we’ll finally be able to make them accessible to Australian farmers."

The team of agronomists led by Kent Wooding, general manager of AGRIVision Consultants, will field-test the tools during development. He says: "We are very happy to be part of the Soil Tech Project, which harnesses our passion for bringing the correct scientific solutions to agronomic decisions. We are looking forward to using these new tools in the field."

For more information, and to sign up as a tester of the apps, visit: www.soiltechproject.org

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