Farming

Radicle Agronomics from Precision Planting seeks to automate soil testing

Precision Planting’s new Radicle Agronomics system focuses on saving time and eliminating error-prone processes in soil sampling and testing.

The Radicle Agronomics system is designed for professional crop consultants and aims to make daily processes more efficient. Cutting out several manual steps of the traditional soil sampling and testing process empowers agronomists to focus on collecting more data and fine tuning recommendations for their farmer customers.

“We want you to spend more time in the field and less time preparing to go to the field,” says Adam Vaccari, engineering team lead for chemistry, analysis and software at Precision Planting. “We want you to spend more time working with your soil sample results, and less time importing moving data around. We want to give you flexibility to sample any field in any order at a moment’s notice.”

Radicle Agronomics is the culmination of six years of work from Precision Planting’s scientists and engineers, and dozens of pending patents. It currently includes three new products: The GeoPress, Radicle Lab, both tied together by a purpose-built, cloud-based software platform.

GeoPress

A side profile of an ATV with the GeoPress attached to the back.

Photo credit: Precision Planting

The Radicle Agronomics system begins in the field with the GeoPress. Taking advantage of Precision Planting’s long history of retrofitting agricultural machinery, the GeoPress mounts to an ATV or UTV.

Once an agronomist has a sample of cores, they can dump it into the soil mixer. From the mixer, it can be dumped into a funnel, and then – with the press of a button – is loaded into a sealed, reusable GeoTube while driving to the next sampling location.

Multiple GeoTubes in a plastic tote.

Photo credit: Precision Planting

The GeoTube soil canister is specifically designed for use in the Radicle Agronomics system. Working in tandem with the system’s software, the GeoTube has a unique RFID tag that records the exact field location, down to longitude and latitude. This takes the manual labeling and recording work entirely out of the equation.

The GeoTube is airtight enough the cap can’t be easily pulled off by hand. This helps maintain the contents and moisture of the soil, avoiding the possibility of foreign material contaminating the sample or the soil drying out.

Radicle Lab

A person loading Geo Tubes on to the rack to be run through the Radicle Lab

Photo credit: Precision Planting

All the sample testing is done automatically in the Radicle Lab, right from the shop — no shipping to an external lab required. The user loads their sample-filled GeoTubes into the soil canister racking system, capable of holding up to 400 tubes at a time.

With the push of a button on the iPad running Radicle Agronomics software, the Radicle Lab will start testing the soil canisters. The first canister will take 15 minutes to run through the whole lab, but once it gets started, it can run three tests at a time, with new test results every five minutes.

“The goal is that this is as simple to run as a dishwasher,” says Dale Koch, product lead at Precision Planting. “Anybody can run it.”

Testing is done with wet soil chemistry analysis, using Precision Planting’s patent-pending microfluidics analysis manifolds that process the sample without human error.

“Microflow technology is the way we have fully automated the precise chemistry that happens in labs today,” says Koch. “[It takes] a small volume of soil slurry and combines with an extract to process.”

The microflow manifolds used within the Radicle Lab.

Photo credit: Precision Planting

The microflow manifolds used in the Radicle Lab.

The lab runs soil through four built-in tests using consumable cartridges that are good for around 1,000 samples before they need to be replaced. The lab self-calibrates to ensure consistent results, and all parts are sanitized between each sample.

The Radicle Lab itself has a relatively small footprint, requiring a 12 foot by 14 foot climate controlled area. It runs off a single 120 volts AC, 60 gallon air compressor, and water from a standard garden hose. Don’t worry if you’re using hard well water, the lab automatically purifies any water input so your soil tests stay contaminate-free.

Radicle Agronomics Software

At the core of the Radicle Agronomics system is the purpose-built software that automatically syncs to the cloud — available in real-time, and encrypted for data protection. From this software, you can set up field boundaries, track the GeoPress’ location, and view sample results.

As mentioned before, the GeoTubes work with the software to mark the exact location it was packed, and which mobile device it was connected to. Don’t worry about dead zones in internet connectivity, all collected data is stored on the iPad or mobile device, and will upload to the cloud as soon as it’s reconnected to the internet.

The software also reports lab status, maintenance notifications, analysis calibration and sample result summary.

Results data can be exported as shape and CSV files, and report generation as PDF.

The software will be available on a web platform and iOS devices. The Android version is expected to come later, but for now Precision Planting recommends the iPad for most uses.

Price and availability

The Radicle Agronomics suite will be available to lease through Precision Planting later this fall, with a wider release planned for 2023. Maintenance and troubleshooting from Precision Planting techs will be included with the lease.

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