Sensor system on tractor provides custom automatic fertilizer and lime application
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Sensor system on tractor provides custom automatic fertilizer and lime application

AG Systems from Noordbroek has developed a sensor system that maps various properties of the soil and translates this into the required application of manure or lime. While the farmer rides on the tractor, the system, which is attached to the bottom of the tractor, measures the condition of the soil and automatically adjusts the amount of application accordingly. With this system, AG Systems wants to support the farmer in carrying out precision farming and optimize the condition of the soil. The sensor system that takes soil measurements and is integrated with the tractor's electronics is unique. Thanks in part to funding from Economic Board Groningen's GROEIfonds and funding found through Flinc (part of NV NOM), AG Systems can commit to further technical development of this product.

Convenience for the farmer

'Our sensor system saves time and money and is easy to use,' said Eddie Loonstra, owner of AG Systems. 'Taking soil samples and working them out is no longer necessary thanks to this system. Also, the farmer does not have to carry a digital map on the tractor on which he / she can see where what amount of manure or lime is needed. With the sensor system, everything happens automatically.' As the farmer drives the tractor onto the land, the sensor system records the condition of the soil and controls the implement's control computer. The farmer can see on the screen of his own implement that the release is going to move.

Improve soil quality

Eddie Loonstra has his own soil consulting business. Improving soil quality has been his main activity for many years. In the Netherlands, with mainly sandy and peaty soil, that often comes down to getting the pH value, the acidity of the soil, to the right level. Delivery of compost is also a major focus. His idea for AG Systems came about four years ago. 'I saw many opportunities in precision agriculture and soil improvement using computer technology, but I noticed that farmers and arable farmers had difficulty using computer technology within their work,' says Loonstra. 'I wanted to remove that barrier.'

Strong cooperation

AG Systems started in June 2020 and has 4 employees. Loonstra partners with GroeNoord, the John Deere dealer in Groningen. John Deere is known for manufacturing agricultural machinery and tractors. Thanks to this collaboration in the Debbie project (co-funded by ERDF/SNN), Loonstra has good insight into the electronics of the implements so that AG Systems can seamlessly connect its sensor system to them. In January 2021, AG Systems sold the first systems to contractor Van der Stelt.

Funding provided by GROEI Fund and through Flinc

Loonstra approached Economic Board Groningen 's GROEIfonds with his funding request for AG Systems. 'With Sytze Hellinga of GROEIfonds, I quickly came to an agreement. I explained my plans and he verified them, especially in the market. The GROEIfonds quickly gave the green light.' Loonstra then still needed a co-financier. Ellen Ploeger, coordinator of Flinc (part of NV NOM), put him in touch with potential investors. 'I had four conversations. In the end, we found a private investor this way. Loonstra is very pleased with Flinc's approach: 'They tested the plan with other entrepreneurs in their network, which allowed us to hone our plan a bit more. And we quickly found potential investors. The funding will be used for further technical development and to bring the system to market.

Groningen and the agricultural sector

AG Systems is based in Noordbroek. 'When we get bigger we will look for an alternative location in the region. Groningen is a good place for doing business in the agricultural sector. There is a large network of companies involved in precision agriculture here and there are organizations that support us in developments.'

Cheap, efficient and minimized environmental impact

If it were up to Loonstra, AG Systems' system would eventually become commonplace for growers. 'Together we can deploy the right amount of resources in agriculture, use the soil optimally and manage it properly at the same time. With this system, no more goes into the soil than necessary. Thanks to this system, the release is done cheaply and efficiently, thus providing the least burden on the environment. Using technology to optimize cultivation. That is ultimately beneficial for everyone.'