Soil Tech Project will put Australian science into farmers’ hands

Soil

The launch of the Soil Tech Project will put decades of world-class soil research from the University of Sydney directly into the hands of Australian farmers.

The project, to be run by Andrea Koch Agtech in cooperation with the Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney, Australian agtech start-up Farmlab, and AGRIVision Consultants, is funded by a $1.1 million Landcare Smart Farming Partnership awarded in June. It will fund a three-year project that will translate soil science research into free digital tools for use by farmers. The Soil Tech Project launches on 5 December to coincide with the United Nations World Soil Day.

The Soil Tech Project led by Andrea Koch Agtech involves a collaborative partnership of agronomists from AGRIVision, scientists from the University of Sydney and developers from the Australian agtech start-up, FarmLab. They will collaborate over the next three years to turn University of Sydney soil science into a suite of six innovative digital soil management tools for land managers.

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,” said Ms Koch, a digital agriculture consultant and the project manager for the grant. “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.”

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.

Professor Alec McBratney, director of the Sydney Institute for Agriculture and Professor of Soil Science at the University of Sydney, said: “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, said: “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 said: “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.”

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

The team is keen to build a community of interest. It is looking for early adopters to field test the applications as they are released and during the design process.