Researchers at Tyndall National Institute at University Cork (UCC) have developed a soil sensor designed to help farmers reduce their use of chemical fertilisers, offering significant cost savings and mitigating environmental harm.

This development comes in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent water report highlighting nutrient pollution as a major issue affecting water quality.

The sensor, part of the Electronic Smart System (ESS), monitors soil nutrient levels in real time, connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT) and utilising cloud technology to collect and analyse data to generate a report for farmers.

This report provides real time insights into changing soil conditions; helping farmers optimise fertiliser use; reduce nutrient losses and minimise environmental impacts.

EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness on a recent visit to Tyndall, met the team and learned about the soil sensor technology

Traditional methods of soil monitoring involve taking physical samples and analysing them over time, which can be costly and inaccurate, according to the institute.

The ESS sensor claims to offer a more efficient and precise solution by providing immediate feedback on soil conditions.

This technology aligns with the EU’s Green Deal objectives and the EU’s Farm-to-Fork strategy, which aims to reduce nutrient losses by 50% and address air, soil, and water pollution.

Professor of the Nanotechnology Group at Tyndall, Alan O’Riordan commented on enthusiasm surrounding the technology.

“This is a very exciting emerging technology that does not exist elsewhere in the world. We are now looking at ways to translate this tech into the hands of farmers through licensing or commercialisation,” Prof. O’Riordan said.

Prof. O’Riordan, Dr. Han Shao and Tarun Narayan, the team that have developed the soil sensor

The project is funded by the VistaMilk Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre and represents a significant step forward in the development of smart farming technologies.

By monitoring harmful emissions and ensuring efficient fertiliser use, the ESS sensor contributes to a healthier, more sustainable food supply chain, according to Tyndall National Institute.

With a network of over 200 industry partners and customers worldwide, Tyndall is focused on delivering human and economic impact from excellence in research.

The institute is home to a multidisciplinary research community of over 600 people of 52 nationalities, including over 160 postgraduates.