IBM helps farmers with AI prototypes that measure soil quality

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IBM AgroPad is a paper card that, in combination with an app, can measure soil quality thanks to machine vision and AI. The app shows the exact amount of chemicals in water and soil samples. Expensive lab tests with long waiting times are no longer necessary.

Farmers who want to know their soil quality today have to take samples and send them to labs or hire expensive steelworkers from specialised companies. For small farmers in particular, this is a heavy price to pay. IBM has now developed an innovative solution for this under the name AgroPad. This allows them to perform their own soil tests, on site, in real time thanks to AI.

IBM AgroPad

IBM’s Mathias Steiner writes in a blog post that this new method could revolutionize digital agriculture and environmental testing. Small family farms account for 80 percent of global food production. Then cheap, efficient tests like these can have a huge impact.

IBM AgroPad is a small piece of paper on which you need to place small drops of water or earth. The micro liquid chips in the card perform various chemical analyses with a result within 10 seconds. The circles on the map give a certain color depending on the test result. A compatible app on a smartphone can analyze the map and instantly displays the chemical test result.

AI on the edge

The AI on the edge-computing approach uses machine learning and machine vision algorithms to translate the measured colours into a correct result that is better than the human eye can estimate. Test data can be simultaneously streamed to the cloud and labeled with a digital tag to identify its time, location and result.


Read this: Edge computing is the nervous system of the Internet of Things


The current prototype can test five parameters for soil and water samples: PH, aluminium, magnesium, chlorine and nitrogen dioxide. IBM continues to expand its library of chemical indicators in order to deliver even more specific tests in the future. Since the paper tests can be carried out by anyone, public data collection can become a quick reality. The mass production and the associated low price of the test cards should make it possible for every farmer to get started. Wait and see how quickly IBM can convert AgroPad into a commercial product.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.