Canadian start-up Ground Truth Ag wants to bring the lab into the field by developing a lab-quality grain analysis system which farmers can attach directly to their combine.
The idea for an on-the-go grain quality analysis system, says Ground Truth Ag founder and chief executive officer Kyle Folk, is to add another yet-to-be-realized layer of information to precision management planning and analysis.
“During harvest on my family’s farm, I would think about the effort that went into optimizing that year’s yield,” says Folk, as described in a November 29, 2022 press release detailing Ground Truth Ag’s securing of $4 million in development funding.
“Then we would send a grain sample to a lab with a volume equivalent to what comes off a four-foot square piece of land to judge the quality of a harvested area of at least 75 football fields. Where is the precision in that?”
As of December, 2022, Ground Truth Ag is nearing the end of its first operational year. In a later interview, Folks says a prototype quality analysis system was initially tested on his family’s grain operation over the most recent harvest season.
The system currently attaches to the combine grain elevator – although Folk says this may change if another location is determined to be more effective – using machine vision and near infrared spectroscopy to scan passing grain. “Between them it grades quality per acre,” says Folk.
“To be able to geolocate and know quality in certain quadrants is what we’re building to. Calibration is known through the industry as being something that’s a challenge. We’re trying to make this the least impactful as it can be so it’s not as taxing as it has in the past. We’re trying to make it as easy for farmers as possible.”
One of the project’s most significant challenge is accounting for variations in grain characteristics. Sprouted wheat grains may be common one year, for example, but relatively rare the next. These seemingly inconsequential differences between physical characteristics of the two affect the modeling with which Folks’ analysis system is programmed.
“We’re focused on wheat right now. There also wasn’t a lot of fusarium, and for our models to be able to be created to account for that kind of thing, we need to actually see it.”
Folk hopes 2023 will bring a more diverse array of conditions under which his company’s analysis tool can be tested. Further information about the prototype, it’s modeling and physical characteristics, is not publicly available at the time of this writing.