Precision Planting's Radical Agronomics automates soil testing

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Precision Planting is changing the process of testing soil with a new Radical Agronomics program that relies on an  automated soil analysis laboratory.

Mike Easter, Precision Planting’s commercial lead for Radical Agronomics, says the program is designed to address some challenges with current laboratory systems and soil testing’s manual process. “What we’ve done is we’ve automated the entire process from soil collection in the field to the laboratory, which processes that soil and ultimately produces the nutrient analysis of the soil. So it just automates the entire process, removes any human touches and maneuvering within that system.”

In this report from Agritechnica 23, Easter tells RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin how Radical Agronomics eliminates the typical process of collecting using soil hand-held or automated probes, putting samples in a bag, filling out all the required info on a submittal sheet and sending it off to the lab to be analyzed.

The Radical Agronomics process is much simpler, Easter says, thanks to a GeoPress which mounts on any field-ready vehicle. It automatically blends and stores the soil sample in a GeoTube, a reusable container with an RFID chip — records all field level data, including the GPS location of the sample. These geo-referenced, reusable tubes are then returned to Radicle Lab and analyzed for soil nutrients.

Easter notes that most soil labs use a dry analysis to test samples but the Precision Planting program relies on a moist analysis. “In our lab today, we actually use a water slurry. So we turn that soil into a slurry and we use the entire amount of that soil, not a small amount, to measure that analysis. It provides a number of different advantages over a dry analysis.” (Story continues after the video.)

Easter adds that automating lab functions also eliminates potential for human error. “If you send something to a lab today, that soil may be touched as many as 20 different times by a technician as it moves through different processes,” he says. “By automating that and using  microfluidic technology, where we can precisely control how much reagents are added to that soil slurry, we ensure that every single sample is treated exactly the same without any introduced components by somebody touching it.”

In the video, Tobin and Easter also discuss how the agriculture industry could utilize Radical Agronomics. Depending on testing needs, it could fit large farms or it may be a better match for agronomists or ag retailers that provide agronomic services.

Easter says the company was pleased with how the program performed in 2023 field testing. He expects to see more Radical Agronomics labs in Canada and the U.S. in 2024. A full commercial launch is expected in 2025.

RealAgriculture’s coverage of Agritechnica is brought to you by Optimum GLY, a new canola trait technology from Corteva Agriscience.

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