The Van Trump Report

Van Trump Farms Partnering with “EarthOptics” to Help Change How We Look at Soils

The ways we monitor soil haven’t changed a lot in the past 50 years, but EarthOptics CEO, Lars Dyrud believes the next frontier of precision agriculture lies deep underground. Using high-tech imaging techniques, the company maps the physical and chemical composition of fields faster, better, and less expensively than traditional techniques, and has raised +$10 million to help scale its solution.

While most might think that it’s obvious to look deeper into the soil where the plants are growing, the simple fact is it’s difficult to do. Currently, Aerial and satellite imagery and IoT-infused sensors for things like moisture and nitrogen have made surface-level data for fields far richer, but down deeper past the first foot or so things start to get a bit more tricky and a lot more expensive.

Traditional soil sampling is very important, but having soil sampled every few acres once or twice a year adds up fast when you have lots of acres to monitor. Because of that, many growers continue to till and fertilize perhaps more than needed simply because of insufficient data. This cannot only be more costly to the producer but can at times cause some unintentional yield drag and create more political headwinds from those battling climate change. According to Dyrud, the U.S. does an estimated +$1 billion in unnecessary tilling each year. 

EarthOptics is working towards some better solutions. Their team has built an imaging suite that relies on ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction to produce a deep map of the soil that’s easier and more precise than extrapolating acres of data from a single sample. Using machine learning and their new tools, the “GroundOwl” and “C-Mapper,” the team created a model that reconciles the no-contact data with traditional samples taken at a much lower rate, learning to predict soil characteristics accurately at a level of precision far beyond what has traditionally been possible. 

Using the GroundOwl, growers will better be able to see just how dense their soils are and exactly where the problem areas lie. This provides producers with more accurate data and tools that can help them save more money and hopefully at the same time generate higher yields. 

It’s worth mentioning that EarthOptics recently won the AGCO Challenge at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit this spring. AGCO was looking for companies who were able to develop a solution that would improve the understanding of the soil environment and its carbon sequestration potential or that creates a solution that better allows farmers to act on that insight. Seth Crawford, vice president, Fuse Connected Services and Digital Customer Experience, AGCO Corporation, said he believes that EarthOptics is delivering actionable insights today and the accuracy of less sampling will resonate with customers.

Soil health, compaction, and carbon are just the beginning for EarthOptics, according to Dyrud. The startup already has ambitions around soil moisture mapping and soil nutrient fertility mapping and is aiming to extend its services to the construction industry – providing developers, contractors, and municipalities with information about the ground’s integrity before larger building projects begin. 

I am also happy to announce that EarthOptics is the newest offering added to our Van Trump Farms lineup. Keep in mind, I only have a handful of businesses that I help to promote and these are the ones that I truly believe in and recommend to my family and friends. I could make some big bold claims about how well these tools work but just like everyone else I hate being “sold” and told some hype. So again, just like Holganix, or Benson’s new seed, we are seeing some great things with EarthOptics but you are going to have to give it a try and see for yourself it can improve your operation and bottom-line profitability. I also like the program’s ability to provide us with better insights into the levels of carbon in our soils. To learn more about EarthOptics and if it might be a fit on your farm call our office at (816) 322-5300 and ask for Todd Loechler you can also just e-mail Todd directly at He will get you all the information you need to make a more informed decision. As always, thank you for the support and consideration!

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