Silver Medal at the Agritechnica Innovation Awards
The OPTIFERT soil sensor has won the silver medal at the Agritechnica Innovation Awards. The consortium is very happy for this recognition, and will present the results of the project at Agritechnica. Keep tuned for further information about events on November 12th!
Results survey: How ready is the market for OPTIFERT?
As part of the activities envisaged in the project, the partners need to assess the readiness of the sector to purchase and install the OPTIFERT system. We would appreciate if you would help us by filling in our very short survey after reading the product description.
The product description can be found in the menu on the left and here.
(please click on "Fertig" at the bottom once you have finished)
Thanks a lot for your help!
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We unify profitable farming and environmental protection
In modern agriculture the amount of nutrients in soil is commonly adjusted by the application of fertilizers. The fertilizer dose has to be carefully adapted to the plant demands, since under-supply as well as over-supply lead to reduced yield. In addition, excessive use seriously harms the environment if fertilizers are not taken up by crops but get washed into ground water. In order to apply the appropriate amount of fertilizers, precise knowledge of nutrient concentrations in the soil and plant needs is required.
At the moment open field crops are fertilized using slow-dissolving solid fertilizer, applied while sowing in an experience-based quantity. Once the fertilizer is applied, the farmer has no control on the rate in which it is dissolved and so when it is available for the plants, or has the possibility of correcting the dose during the growth of the crop. A system for calculating and applying on-demand fertilizers in open field crops, together with a fast and simple method for the routine surveillance of these nutrients is not yet available. Laboratory analysis or the complex application of several measurement procedures have to be applied at the beginning of the season. As a consequence, the applied fertilizer dose is often based on estimations, with adverse effects on environment and profit.
We have developed a full fertigation system composed of:
- A soil nutrient sensor system for the combined measurement of NO3, NH4, K and PO4 at the field. For the measurement, a soil sample is suspended in a universal extraction liquid. After filtration, the amount of dissolved nutrients is measured in this liquid. In this way, only a single extraction procedure followed by a single measurement is required, minimising the work for the generation of nutrient concentration maps and depth profiles.
- A software system which will receive the sensor data and process it together with crop growth models and weather data to calculate the required amount of fertilizers for each growth stage.
- A mixing and dosing unit, designed specifically for the requirements of an open field, and prepared to dissolve any needed fertilizer combination. The dosing unit can be coupled with any standard irrigation system, adapting the dose not only to the required amount of nutrients for each crop period but also to dynamically adapt to the variation of irrigation rate.
The three developed prototypes have been tested in a corn field in Brandenburg, Germany, during the season 2013. 25Ha test site in this field has been fertigated using the OPTIFERT prototypes. The soil and plants have been monitored and analysed periodically during the whole season, as well as neighbour 25Ha reference test, which was fertilized under standard practice. The performance of prototypes and test field have proven satisfactory.
OPTIFERT aims at achieving the following overall objectives:
- Development of a competitive, combined, innovative demand driven irrigation and fertilisation system for European farmers.
- To increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the European agricultural sector
Scientific and technological objectives:
- To develop, build and implement a prototype of an OPTIFERT fertigation system based on a feedback data processing (software) which is able to provide amounts of water and nutrients tailored to suit specific crop requirements
- To develop and test an innovative soil sensor system measuring soil moisture, ammonium (NH4+), ortho-phosphate ) nitrate (NO3-), nitrite (NO2-) and salinity
- To combine irrigation and fertilisation in a one-step approach
- To reach and assure the compatibility of the OPTIFERT prototype with existing irrigation system (sprinkler, Center pivot irrigation, Lateral move (side roll, wheel line) irrigation, drip irrigation)
- To test different alternative liquid fertilizer (manure, urine, biogas digestate) with the OPTIFERT prototype
- To save scarce water resources by reducing the need of freshwater for agricultural irrigation up to 30%
- To avoid pollution of surface and groundwater water resources (in terms of EU Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EG) by reducing the amount of applied fertilizers (-35 %)
- to develop a system which combines irrigation and fertilisation in order to reduce the consumption of energy and fuel, which leads to lower emission of CO2 in terms of the “Kyoto Protocol” and the EC program “Reducing greenhouse gases by 2020”
- To develop and test a market oriented and cost-efficient fertigation system which can be introduced successfully in the European agricultural market and worldwide
- Allow agricultural production in water scarce regions avoiding effects of desertification and degradation
- To reach an market share in Europe of new sold irrigation systems of at least 20 % in the year 2016
- To upgrade at least 20 % of presently used irrigations systems in the year 2016
- To distribute and commercialise the developed soil sensor-software system in markets which will be not addressed directly by the SME consortium (world licence)
- To reduce the costs of irrigation for the final user by at least 30% (water savings).
- To reduce the costs of fertilization for the final user by at least 35% (saving of mineral fertilizers and use of alternatives).
- To summarize the existing knowledge in irrigation and fertilization systems and transfer this knowledge to potential end users (awareness rising).
- To increase competiveness of European farmers and therefore safe and create employment in rural areas
- To create new jobs in the production, maintenance and operation of the proposed system.