Brazilian agtech company Grandeo has developed a portable device that uses a specific type of infrared (NIR or Near Infrared) to instantly scan and analyse soil and crops in the field.
The technology has been used for 20 years in Brazil, but was focused on applications in the pharmaceutical and food industries, mainly in large companies.
In agriculture, NIR can be used to quantify levels of nutrients in the soil (such as nitrogen), the ATR of sugar cane and even make a classification of grains according to their quality, among others. All that in less than a minute.
“Due the miniaturisation of many components, I realised about two years ago that it would be possible to develop a device to meet the growing demand for data directly from the field”, says Luciano Paitch, CEO of Grandeo.
The equipment is useful for several applications and already has been used in soy, corn and sugar cane, as well as in another cultures such as fruits, coffee and even in silage and animal feed.
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The portable device resembles a credit card machine and, in the current version, weighs about 300 grams with an 8cm width, 16cm length and 5 cm height approximately.
It is connected to the cell phone by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signal in order to share the data. After that, the software analyses the information and stores it based on exact GPS locations records at the field.
“It doesn’t depend on an internet connection. The idea is that growers can also use it in regions without or with very bad mobile coverage. When there is a connection avaliable to the cell phone (in the farm office for instance), the data can be synchronised using a cloud-based server”, he explains.
To summarise, The NIR scanner makes and fast analysis of chemical compounds on a molecular level, from soil, seed or plants. In other words, it shows the chemical compound, the quantity and the elements in the sample. This all taks less than a minute.
“If we analyse soy, we can quantify the moisture and protein content of the grain or soy meal, as well as the content of fat, mineral matter and other elements. The equipment can be calibrated for several other indicators or cultures. All data is interpreted by robust software systems”, Paitch adds.
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Another application is the classification of a product. In other words, it is possible to know whether a seed belongs to a certain variety, measure quality characteristics such as the ATR (total recoverable sugar) of sugarcane in the field, before harvest or even of various fruits.
“The analysis can be done by sampling, without necessarily having to remove the crop. Farmers can do as many tests as they want in different crops. It has already been developed for this. Who is going to perform the analysis select what he want to evaluate”, explains Luciano.
Grandeo offers growers the possibility to rent the scanner for R$ 8000 or 1,300 euros per month. This includes service. Growers who want to buy the scanner, have to invest R$ 70,000 or 11,400 euros.
For now, the scanner is available in Brazil only, however in 2021 Grandeo aims to make its technology available in Latin America (Argentina, Uruguay, Bolívia, Panamá and Guatemala) and Europe (Portugal).