AN AGTECH company, which is building a name for its paddock grain testing tool, is developing similar devices for leaf and soil carbon levels.
Hone Ag uses spectroscopy to determine leaf, grain and soil quality in the paddock. The tool was developed from a 3D microscope originally used to image medical samples, which they realised could be developed into an accurate portable testing kit for the agricultural industry.
Last year, the largest bulk handler of grain on the east coast, Grain Corp, purchased a 15 percent stake in the company – describing it as “the device that could revolutionise grain testing”.
The grain testing tool has received provisional approval, while the leaf and soil testing equipment is still in a research and development phase.
Speaking at the Big Tech, Big Ideas forum in Dubbo last month, national manager Jimmy Scott said the company was aiming for a practical device to be used on farms – closer to where decisions are made.
“I’m not encouraging anybody to go out and kick it around, but it does have a good degree of durability,” Mr Scott said.
“Ultimately, what we are trying to do is give people the ability to test closer to the point of decision making. When it comes to harvest people sometimes have to drive more than an hour to the closest silos to see if they can get their header going, it’s the same with protein when they are trying to decide whether to sell or store their grain.”
What is spectroscopy?
The data is taken using spectroscopy, which tests how light is interacting with the sample being taken – in this case, grain, soil and leaf.
“We have about 4,000 grain samples at our lab in Newcastle and 17,500 soil samples,” Mr Scott said.
“We collect the spectral data off those samples, then send them away to a nationally accredited lab to get the reference data. Then after we do that over and over again, we can build enough data to be able to test those samples in the paddock.”
Mr Scott said the data was all stored on the “cloud” and could be uploaded when in mobile or internet service.
“You can collect the spectral data on the Hone Lab, send it to the phone locally and the phone will upload the data when in range,” he said.
Soil and leaf data building up
With the grain testing on the market, Mr Scott said the company was still building up data to release models for soil and leaf testing.
“Soil varies so much across the entire country, we need data from everywhere to build a model to use in-field,” he said.
“With the leaf testing, the leaf is only available for about six weeks per year to build our model.”
Mr Scott said the soil carbon testing already being done at the company’s lab in Newcastle and complied with the Carbon Farming Initiative – and the company did not have a timeline for when it will be available in-field.