About five years ago, Troy Schmidtke began exploring what he thought was a tremendous opportunity to bring a needed technology to agriculture – a 24/7 in-season data collection platform. He developed the idea working at a company called Design Ready Controls, and spun the concept off into a new company – EarthScout GBC – in 2017.
As CEO, Schmidtke has led team of experts from across the agriculture spectrum – agronomists, precision agriculture specialists, and ag technology experts – to develop an in-field sensing technology that collects predictive micro-climate and soil data and shares it wirelessly via a mobile app. He explains that the technology is designed to measure real-time above and below ground growing conditions 24 hours a day, providing growers with the information they need to drive higher yields, reduce input costs, and enhance land stewardship.
EarthScout is designed to fit into the production regimen of a wide range of crops, but has struck the strongest chord in vertical specialty crops. Early technology adopters in high-value production such as apples, hops, and even hemp have been receptive to the capabilities of the system. “We’ve done a lot of research and spent a lot of time with individual growers, and we’re finding that the early adopters of technology, regardless of the crop, end up being the real target,” says Schmidtke.
EarthScout currently offers 19 unique durable sensors for outdoor field and indoor greenhouse use that monitor soil moisture, temperature, and salinity as well as air temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and more. In addition to providing growers with visibility to real-time and historic trend data related to these metrics, EarthScout also has a team of grow coaches who are plant physiologists, plant pathologists, soil scientists, and agronomists who work with growers on how best to gather, analyze and leverage that data.
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Schmidtke is realistic about this being a long-term gambit of research, discovery, development, and value delivery to establish EarthScout as a viable option for farmers. Commercialization is rolling out this year from the company’s home base in Minnesota. Some early victories focus around water optimization through variable rate irrigation in corn, development of a patent-pending nitrogen mineralization monitoring tool in conjunction with Dr. David Mulla at the University of Minnesota, and another tool to predict white mold infestation.
But the mix of expertise and collaboration with experts and farmer-customers puts EarthScout on a firm footing. “Farmers are awash in data, and with EarthScout we are bringing information that is really targeted and actionable,” says Schmidtke.