Helping farmers make decisions with real-time data

A company focused on remote crop monitoring is aiming to help farmers make decisions by providing real-time insights.

Soiltech Wireless Founder Ehsan Soltan says the Soiltech Sensor measures moisture, temperature, humidity, location, and crop damage.  

“We’re helping farmers make decisions when they need to be made and not just on a schedule just because we did it last year,” he says. “(We provide) real-time insights into how the soil is performing, whether or not the crops are taking up moisture and whether we need to irrigate again, or we’re looking at soil temperatures to help them to determine the optimal planting or harvest date. We’re helping them gain a day or save a day, which can be make or break in agriculture,” he says. “We’re also giving them remote oversite of their fields, so they don’t need to drive to every field every day. We’re not seeking to remove boots on the ground, it’s impossible to do so, but we can help those boots only go to the field when they need to when our system tells them something is awry and for them to go check it out.”  

Photo provided by Soiltech Wireless

He describes the company as farmer-first, saying it was founded with farmer input to address farmer needs.

“Soiltech was founded to address a need that was identified to us by farmers. Farmers understand the need for data to help run their farms, but they were starved for data. Solutions previously were too expensive or just too cumbersome or time-consuming to use. They were seeking a solution that worked out of the box that delivered data straight to their phones without the need for complicated gateways or routers to get the information to help them make critical decisions—whether it’s if I’m irrigating today, if I’m spraying today, if I should harvest today, or what truck route I should take,” he says. “In 2018 I sat together with a handful of growers, and we developed the product together. They told me how it needed to look, what it needed to do, and ideally what it needed to cost for them to actually benefit from it. We’ve ended up today with a wireless, moisture, temperature, humidity, GPS location and crop damage sensor that can move through the whole agricultural supply chain, whether under the ground, on top of the soil, in the canopy, in a truck transporting crops, or in storage post-harvest.”

He adds that, “we are developing products and solutions to help them in their everyday lives. In doing so we help people further downstream including co-ops, processors, and input companies. We’re seeking to help everybody, but it really starts from the grassroots level and I think that’s the best way to go about making change in agriculture. It’s not top down, it’s a bottom-up approach. That’s our philosophy.”

Soltan says the sensors also help drive more sustainable decisions.

“We’re helping them to put the right amount of water on. Often, it’s about saving water, sure, but sometimes it’s about putting enough on because the crop needs it. We’re helping them to save fuel and power. They don’t have to drive so frequently to the fields, and they don’t have to be running irrigation all the time,” he says. “We believe we’re helping farmers improve their bottom line and in doing so, we’re helping drive broader sustainability initiatives to be achieved.”

Soiltech is part of AT&T’s Connected Climate Initiative, which seeks to help businesses reduce emissions by one billion metric tons by 2035.

“Whenever we can get together with people throughout the supply chain, whether it’s the connectivity provider, the processors, or the growers to figure out how in running our own businesses we can help contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions then we want to be part of that story,” he says. “It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. You can’t flip the switch and have a solution to all of our global problems, but we have to start somewhere. It starts with coming together, having the initiative, having the discussions with the right people to figure out how we’re going to make change.”

Soiltech recently participated in a Flip the Swith event by AT&T in Southern Indiana. Soltan gave a demonstration on the Soiltech Sensors and discussed the technology, including how it uses AT&T Internet of Things (IoT).

Photo provided by AT&T

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Audio: Ehsan Soltan

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