c2sensor starts up in Fargo using NDSU technology
FARGO, N.D. — A new startup, precision in-ground soil and crop measurement and monitoring company c2Sensor, has opened in Fargo. The firm, which is based at the North Dakota State University Technology Incubator, is licensing precision agriculture sensor technology developed at NDSU.
The sensors are constructed using the NDSU research team’s patent-pending “direct write” electronic printing techniques to print circuit and antenna patterns directly onto renewable, bio-based substrates. Developed between the NDSU Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the Mechanical Engineering Department at NDSU, the sensors are made with biocomposites so they can be left in the ground to biodegrade without harming soil quality.
The research team placed microsensors in fields at the Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension (SHARE) farm in Richland county in southeastern North Dakota. Called SEED, which stands for Sensing Earth Environment Directly, the bio-degradable sensors are placed in the ground like seeds, with the potential to directly measure soil salinity, moisture, fertility, and chemicals in real time.
Sensors in the future could be placed directly into the soil during the seeding process, by mixing the sensors in with the seed during planting. A reading device mounted beneath an agricultural vehicle or other agricultural implements would interact with the SEED sensors embedded in the soil, and then provide direct measurements of soil conditions, moisture, and chemical content in real time.
“The NDSU-developed sensor technology licensed by c2sensor is different from current methods, which often require a combination of direct measurement such as soil sampling, or indirect measurements such as remote sensing via probes,” said Corey Kratcha, CEO of c2sensor.
Materials used to create the sensors allow them to be left in place after use, where they can degrade without leaving toxins in the soil. Wireless communication with the sensor is based on passive radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology with no batteries needed.
“As the product is developed, it could assist farmers to monitor salinity levels, nutrient levels for fertilizer applications, moisture and pH levels,” said Chad Ulven, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “It could be coupled with aerial mapping via UAVs or satellite imaging, giving farmers real time soil analysis for end-of-year field work.”
The North Dakota Corn Utilization Council provided initial funding at NDSU for the seed sensor project. Following licensing to c2sensor, additional funding through the North Dakota Department of Commerce Venture Grant Program and the North Dakota Centers of Excellence will be utilized to further develop the sensor technology.