“What factors can I influence to improve yield?” This is the question that Jonathan Tole has frequently asked himself. This challenge – faced by farmers worldwide – was the inspiration for new company Soil-for-Life, which provides specialist information about soil health for input into farm management systems.
The early stage start-up is a finalist in Agri-Tech East’s GROW agri-tech business plan competition.
Jonathan Tole is CEO of Soil-for-Life, which is a spinout from a joint project between Cranfield University and Produce World. The original research project aimed to see if there were correlations between interventions in the field and improved yield.
Jonathan explains: “Our belief at Produce World was that soil health was vital to crop performance and reducing inputs. A good fertile soil would result in a vigorous crop that could withstand a downpour of rain or disease threat.
“The research with Cranfield revealed a number of ways to optimise crop rotations and soil management systems to improve soil quality. This information, when combined with soil mapping, will enable farmers to understand what to prioritise so they are putting their effort and money into the activities that will generate the greatest return.”
Soil-for-Life is not aiming to compete with established farm management systems but more to provide a ‘plug-in’ that offers significant scientific and practical knowledge based on real data. It is therefore designed to be compatible with other systems.
The company is currently offering farmers a benchmarking service to help the machine learning part of its knowledge engine. In future it will use a ‘software-as-a-service’ model so that farmers can access the technology directly or as an added feature of their existing system.
The original Knowledge Transfer Project received funding from BBSRC and Innovate UK and was spun out as a company in March 2017.
The GROW agri-tech business plan competition was established by Agri-Tech East to stimulate entrepreneurship in the industry. GROW 2016/17 was supported by Innovate UK.
Find out more about Soil-for-Life at soil-for-life.co.uk