News and knowhow for farmers

Paper device to revolutionise soil and water testing

2018 08 13 Agropad 64.small 768x512

Agro­Pad: A set of circles on the back of the card provide col­or­i­met­ric test res­ults; the color of each circle rep­res­ents the amount of a par­tic­u­lar chem­ical in the sample.

Small scale farm­ers can mon­itor the health of their soil and water using an Agro­Pad pro­to­type which is a paper device about the size of a busi­ness card. The device en­ables real-time, on-loc­a­tion, chem­ical ana­lysis of a soil or water sample, using ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gent (AI).

Ag­ri­cul­ture con­sumes more than 70 per­cent of the world’s an­nual water usage. With small farms pro­du­cing nearly 80 per­cent of food for the de­vel­op­ing world, en­sur­ing the qual­ity and safety of our water sup­ply is crit­ical. En­vir­on­mental ana­lysis for ag­ri­cul­ture often re­lies on ex­pens­ive and time-con­sum­ing labor­at­ory tests per­formed far away from the farm. As a res­ult, chem­ical ana­lysis is quickly out­dated and lim­ited to small sample num­bers.

The tech­no­logy which has been de­veloped by Math­ias Steiner who is the Man­ager at In­dus­trial Tech­no­logy and Sci­ence, IBM Re­search in Brazil a way to sim­plify the test­ing pro­cess and make it af­ford­able for small farm­ers to mon­itor the health of their soil and water.

How it works

A drop of water or soil sample is placed on the Agro­Pad, which is a paper device about the size of a busi­ness card.

The mi­cro­fluidics chip in­side the card per­forms on-the-spot a chem­ical ana­lysis of the sample, provid­ing res­ults in less than 10 seconds.

The set of circles on the back of the card provide col­or­i­met­ric test res­ults; the color of each circle rep­res­ents the amount of a par­tic­u­lar chem­ical in the sample.

Using a smart­phone, the farmer would then take a single snap­shot of the Agro­Pad by using a ded­ic­ated mo­bile ap­plic­a­tion and im­me­di­ately re­ceives a chem­ical test res­ult.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Device saves over 60 per cent nu­tri­ent leach­ing loss

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Tech­no­logy im­proves soil fer­til­ity through green in­nov­a­tion

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: KALRO de­vel­ops smart tech­no­logy to im­prove soil pro­ductiv­ity in Mount Kenya re­gion

Agro­Pad: “AI on the edge”

This “AI on the edge” com­put­ing ap­proach uses ma­chine learn­ing and ma­chine vis­ion al­gorithms to trans­late the meas­ured color com­pos­i­tion and in­tens­ity into con­cen­tra­tions of chem­ic­als in the sample, mak­ing it more re­li­able than tests based on human vis­ion alone.

Test data can be sim­ul­tan­eously streamed onto a cloud com­put­ing plat­form and labeled with a di­gital tag that uniquely iden­ti­fies the time, loc­a­tion and res­ults of the chem­ical ana­lysis.

The cloud plat­form al­lows man­age­ment and in­teg­ra­tion of mil­lions of in­di­vidual tests per­formed at vari­ous times and loc­a­tions.

This is an im­port­ant fea­ture for mon­it­or­ing, for ex­ample, the change in fer­til­izer con­cen­tra­tion in a par­tic­u­lar re­gion throughout the year.

We cur­rently have a five-para­meter pro­to­type solu­tion for soil and water test­ing that meas­ures pH, ni­tro­gen di­ox­ide, alu­minum, mag­nesium and chlor­ine. We’re con­tinu­ally ex­tend­ing the lib­rary of chem­ical in­dic­at­ors avail­able for de­ploy­ment; each Agro­Pad could be per­son­al­ized based on the needs of the in­di­vidual user.

Since the pa­per-based tests can be re­li­ably per­formed by non-ex­perts, pub­lic data col­lec­tion with in­stant di­git­iz­a­tion in chem­ical sens­ing be­comes a real pos­sib­il­ity.

Along with low cost, mass pro­duc­tion of the paper based device and large scale de­ploy­ment through mo­bile and cloud tech­no­lo­gies, the ex­plor­at­ory pro­to­type could re­vo­lu­tion­ize di­gital ag­ri­cul­ture and en­vir­on­mental test­ing.

Get our news into your email inbox every week

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top