Thursday, November 19, 2020  •  Episode 8

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Soil sampling, specifically grid-based soil sampling, has long been a foundational practice in site-specific crop management, and rightfully so. Soil test results at 2.5-acre grid resolutions communicate valuable information about nutrient levels, pH, organic matter, and other crucial factors for site-specific management decisions. But grid soil sampling - when used by itself - does not convey soil property changes between sampling points or offer high enough resolution information about soil texture and related properties. On-the-go soil mapping has emerged over the past several decades as a viable technology for measuring soil properties - especially electrical conductivity (EC), pH, and OM - at high resolutions. These properties are often some of the biggest yield determining factors because they are directly related to soil water holding capacity, nutrient availability, and crop protection efficacy. In this episode of the FarmBits podcast, Tyler Lund joins us to discuss the intricacies of on-the-go soil mapping as a complementary technology to traditional soil sampling that unlocks smarter management decisions previously unattainable in ag. Tyler is an executive at Veris Technologies, an on-the-go soil mapping company based out of Salina, KS, that has serviced the agricultural community since 1995. As a son of Veris's founder, Eric Lund, it's safe to say that Tyler has earned his stripes in this industry. Throughout the episode, Tyler offers insights about the benefits of on-the-go soil mapping, the advantages of different types of sensors, how we can best make use of soil map information, and what new technologies are on the horizon for on-the-go soil mapping. For any farmer, consultant, or researcher out there who has ever looked at yield maps year after year and thought, "What is going on in that spot that makes it so productive? And there so unproductive?" this episode is a must-listen. Ultimately, soils drive crop productivity and understanding the soil enables better management. That's exactly what this episode is all about. "Some of the challenge when I think people are introduced to soil texture, soil EC mapping is 'I can't change it so why would I map it?' and you know this kind of takes a little perspective change that, no we're not changing the soil, we're changing the way we manage it. . . . we're probably not even ever going to raise up the poor yields to the high yielding areas. We're just trying to reach the potential of each soil." - Tyler Lund

Opinions expressed on FarmBits are solely those of the guest(s) or host(s) and not the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

On this episode

host Samantha Teten
host Jackson Stansell
guest Tyler Lund
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Tyler Lund Contact Information:
Twitter: @tylerlund


Veris Contact Information:
Twitter: @VerisTech

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Jackson: On today's episode, we welcome Tyler Lund, an executive at Veris Technologies. Tyler has a wealth of experience in on-the-go soil sensing and has been involved with Veris Technologies since the company was founded. 

Samantha: Tyler's dad, Eric Lund, founded Veris Technologies in 1995 during the onset of precision ag technologies for vehicle positioning and variable rate application. In Tyler's current role, he helps direct their business strategy and identify new opportunities for Veris to helpgrowers optimize their operations.

Jackson: Tyler will discuss the history of Veris and his role in more detail in the episode, but he will also break down on-the-go soil mapping, the differences and types of sensors available on the market for soil mapping, what exactly map soil data is useful for, and how users can derive their maximum benefit from the technology. 

Samantha: There's a lot of great content in this episode for you to listen to, So, let's jump right in with Tyler Lund.

Jackson: So, I guess do you want to tell us a little bit about your yourself and some of your background and what you do with Veris Technologies? 

Tyler: Yeah, so my name is Tyler Lund. I'm the director of sales and marketing at Veris, and I think if we were a Silicon Valley company or more progressive with their titles, I think my title would be director of business development or something like that. Because you know, I do try to help sell our equipment, but a lot of it is product design. Understanding what sensors and what configurations are going to be most helpful for growers and their values. A lot of my job involves helping people who buy our equipment make use of it and you know a lot of people are starting businesses with this so an advisor would get our equipment start mapping for customers. And so, some of it's just helping them launch a business. But a lot of it comes down to folks using this new high-resolution soil data for unique applications. And we've got equipment in 54 countries right now, and so helping people you know who want to improve yields improve probably more importantly profitability and a lot of different settings. Because the soil varies in all these different countries where the sensors are being used. But, one of the challenges we've got kind of some textbook agronomy and we need to learn how to apply it site specifically, and with that comes a lot of neat opportunities. I think one of the most rewarding thing in my job is when people can approach problems that have plagued farmers for a while with a new twist by maybe new inputs, new products are available that didn't make sense on a cost scale across the whole field. But now when we can target it in certain regions like. I think you probably suffer from some iron deficiency chlorosis. I think they call them the Platte Valley yellows or something like that. And these high Ph, poorly drained areas you know throwing chelated iron there some varieties of soybeans that they can just target with a multi-variety planter or different population. So, coming up with some of those agronomic solutions some my favorite part of my job for sure. So that's a little bit about my role at Veris. Cool.

 Samantha: That's awesome. Now can you tell us a little bit about the background of Veris and how the company started, and where it's going.

Tyler: Yeah, Veris got started in ‘95 and then when we first started kind of putting together some of the ideas first product was launched in 96. It really all came out of this at that time this is the advent of precision aggregate GPS was just made available to public. And manufacturers were making variable rate equipment controllers but the question was all right we now have the ability to manage these different areas in our field, but how do we know where they are how do we digitize that. And at that time the USDA soil survey hadn't been digitized in the process of being in made geo-referenced. And grid sampling was coming on, but farmers really wanted to better understand where their soil changed. And so, actually my father started the company with some some friends who had technology for understanding the soil deep in the ground for more geological exploration. And he, my father, had cut his teeth helped him with Great Plains he was an executive there and wanted to adapt some of that sensing technology into an agricultural setting, so he launched his company Veris which means truth in Latin. Like veritas, verify and I wanted to be able to help take some of that sensor technology with GPS, with the ruggedness of farm equipment taking lab quality type equipment into the field to be able to go measure where and map where out in the field these soils change so that now we can really make the most of the GPS technology, the variable rate controllers, and put it all together. And that that's where we started you know it's evolved just as I think the industry's evolved in and wanting to do a better job with managing. I think a lot of it started with fertility. How do we put fertilizer in the right places in the field? To see population corn population, nitrogen management we were talking about yield you know understanding yield well it's usually driven by the soil and so understand where the soil changes in those relationships. So, where Veris has shifted and grown is helping map other properties. So, we've developed additional sensors and more advanced applications with kind of some multi-layers management zones to help with that. So, we've tried to add sensors and and kind of help farmers more with the actually putting the data to use. That's kind of our evolution over the past 25 years.

Jackson: Very cool thank you for that in-depth explanation. I love the name and where 

it came from. I did my undergrad at Harvard kind of a quick aside that will probably clip but 

I did my undergrad at Harvard and our motto was veritas and you know we always saw it as you 

know verify and truth. And, yeah I love that. I saw the name and I was like there's got to be a

story behind that. So it's good. 

Tyler: Well, we just don't like when people confuse it for virus. And they're

like yeah once you get it you just can't get rid of it. and that's right. Hopefully people don't

describe our equipment like that. That's a huge PR blow right now. Especially. Yeah yeah exactly.

Jackson: So, what different sensing technology units does Veris offer right now on the market? 

Tyler: Yeah, we launched with measuring soil electrical conductivity which if to the uninitiated can

often be confused with the EC or the electrical conductivity that's measured in a laboratory.

This is the what's called bulk apparent electrical conductivity. This is really measuring the physical 

characteristics of the soil. The soil texture, the particle size whether it's a sandy soil

silty, clay and those variations throughout a farm field. And that's the physical

property we're measuring. We also have an organic matter sensor, which is an optical sensor that 

measures soil color, solar reflectance soil ph. And those are the main agronomic productivity type

sensors that the soil type soil organic matter and soil Ph. We've recently come out with a moisture

and temperature sensor, and that's more used for equipment control. How we're doing our improving 

our tillage strategy, our planting logistics. So, that we're getting that seed off to a good start. 

We also have a compaction sensing on a on a vertical probe that's inserted into the 

ground. And we would actually also consider our elevation our altitude map when we convert that

into slope and curvature to be another sensor. Because it obviously impacts water movement

and a lot of different things in a field. So, we add that together to say you know we're mapping 

the most physical most important physical, biological and chemical properties. And some

of those sensors down to a depth of three feet. So those are the sole properties we measure. 

Samantha: Awesome, why did Veris decide to focus on these specific soil properties the ones that you just mentioned. Was there initial focus on measuring the properties that were most agronomically important, or that were easily measurable or you know what was kind of your thought process behind?

Tyler: I'd love to say that we went for the just the most agronomically important instead of care for the farmer. I mean I think some of the sensing technology that we understood at the beginning, the best was easy. And so that was a good place it also happened to be probably the most important contributor to yield in terms of water holding capacity. If you drive across the farm field, and yields go you know in the combine the yields go up and the oats go down. It's hardly ever due to, I mean fertility unless someone's doing a real poor job managing. It's usually due to soil texture, it's due to you know water holding capacity and if it's not driven completely by water holding capacity that soil texture is contributing high yields or pulling it down from a lot of different factors. Compaction changes with soil texture. Think about a planter going across a field well if that last tillage pass was done when it was wet and clay it you know you're gonna have big clods, and the planter's gonna bounce and you're gonna have poor singulation and space and you're gonna have bad emergence. So, yields can go down in those clay parts of the field because of that we see that a lot with cereals which don't get as much attention in precision agriculture but doing variable rates seeding of wheat based on germination that it's harder to get a good stand in certain soils. So, let's jack up the population there and so yes we went with it because it's a foundational soil property. But it's also a technology we knew about. The other the challenge some of the challenge when I think people are introduced to soil texture, soil EC mapping is I can't change it so why would I map it. And you know this kind of takes a little perspective change that no we're not changing the soil we're changing the way we manage it. We're changing you know hopefully the outcome on it and we're not we're not going to change that and we're probably not even ever going to raise up the-you know poor yields to the high yielding areas. We're just trying to reach the potential of each soil. And so that's why we got started with EC. After that, Ph was a soil property that you know I think a few studies have shown that better management of Ph is the most profitable payback in precision agriculture because it doesn't matter you know a lot of the challenge with precision ag is it a wet year dry year, did I choose the right hybrid. How well is low Ph always needs lime and a neutral Ph never needs lime year in year out. It's just a pretty established fact and so that Ph sensor, which we actually worked with a professor from University of Nebraska, that's Viachelslav Adamchuck, to develop the the Ph sensor that we license and add on to our sensor. So, that was another one just because instant payback for the farmer. And now we're actually probably getting as much attention from that Ph sensor being used on the high Ph side of things with we talked about with iron deficiency chlorosis and adding chips into fields and kind of managing some on that side as well. Organic matter really that sensor was developed out of a desire to understand more about carbon, I think in the early 2000s there was a bigger emphasis then. And it's growing back about how do farmers benefit themselves by storing carbon in the soil and how can they maybe possibly monetize that and help with climate change. And so, we developed a really advanced robust with a photo spectrometer many wavelengths of optical sensing to measure carbon for a trading program and we used that technology, simplified it and made an organic matter type sensor, which is probably not used much for carbon management right now. But is an important strategy for folks who are wanting to do improved nitrogen management and they also use that om layer for variable rate seeding and other inputs. Those are that's kind of the genesis of those different sensors we've had. 

Samantha: That's awesome we had a speaker last week about he was a crop consultant and said really similar things you're actually though like putting it into practice- so you're saying like of course Ph is you know the one thing you can really control go control it um so yeah that's awesome to hear you say it and how you're putting it to use find it to work.

Jackson: Yeah, there are three things you said there I thought were really good, so we can't change the soil but we can change how we manage it and we can get the maximum productivity out of those regions. Number two the immediate ROI with Ph, and then finally getting some added value out of out of data and different cultural practices for farmers. That's something we've been talking about we've heard from a couple of our farmers that they're really looking into that carbon sequestration piece. 

Tyler: Yeah, it's interesting, whether it's soil health or soil carbon just understanding the spatial variability. I mean that's when we sit down to talk to people about soil sensing it you know it's kind of like a I don't know a Tesla pitch you know it's not like any going by in any other car you have to sit down and learn about it and you know get on board with the cost and what all it provides. But you know we need folks to start thinking about soil and so understanding soil matters that that's you know it's at the foundation of everything we grow. But then thinking spatially I know you had the Space Plowboy, Terry Griffin on weeks ago yeah and just thinking about our farm fields is not just spatially. Oh, I've got the west 80 and grandma's you know quarter section over here as the you know inside that field farmers do that they understand the variability but but also just thinking about how can I micromanage that variability. And then last is a fusion is we need people to think for fusion multi-layers because it's not one property that's probably should determine our management zones and Veris has the benefit of a long history in this industry but we often, I'd say we get judged by our yearbook photo in that EC is all a lot of people know about us because that's what we had on the market first and for a long time. But, if we want to get into some of those more you know value-add how do we advance you know get involved with some more advanced properties or advanced management practices we need to not just use EC. We need to use EC and typography and sometimes we need to even throw in organic matter depending on what we want to manage. And that's one of the unique things we've done lately is what we call application specific management zones because the same zones that are justify where I should put more nitrogen it's not necessarily the same set of zones of wash but more lime. And so, having the flexibility and choosing uh zones based on what we want to manage.

Jackson: It's super interesting and talking about kind of the fusion of multiple layers thinking about this in the context of soil sampling particularly grid sampling how exactly does on-the-go soil mapping like what Veris does complement what you would get out of a traditional grid sample to kind of create that fusion of layers. 

Tyler: I think that on-the-go scanning is needs traditional sampling for fertility. I mean we really need to have a lab help us understand certain properties that we're not we're not measuring. So, I think that there's a good complements there, and I think we just have to understand what each map is used for whether it's grid sampling or Veris map they just use it for its purpose. Even the soil survey I mean it can be kind of a nice reconnaissance tool for looking to buy ground or something like that. But if you go on the website to download the map it says there's a warning do not use this for precision ag pretty much what it says not to be used at this scale. And uh and yet and so I'd say you know bad maps have cost farmers more than good maps have benefited them over the years. Because you know when we get lost driving it's usually because of a bad map it's not because Oh- we had the wrong car or put the wrong fuel in the car well that would cause a problem too but. So, understanding what each map is used for it can be helpful I think that grid sampling is especially useful for uh as a way to identify any if there's a potential for hot spots with  you know if there used to be an old hog lot and you know phosphorus is out through the roof and so, you can look at the results from a grid sampled map and say all right I've got some highs and lows and I need to manage that but what happens when you do get that sample that lands on the hog lot and that hog lot was right here in that zone and I know we're doing a podcast and this might all be video but if you think about some of the challenges is when you get some of those hot spots how far are you applying that knowledge from that one sample. Because if you're doing two and a half acre grid sampling that's you know out to 330 feet based on that one sample and um and thinking about what happens in between those samples and then interpolating in between and so I like the idea of getting a lot of lab data from the field but then just choosing what map to then apply that information from more and so some people have adopted that kind of a targeted grid or a shifted grid type basis or they use a zone map maybe a Veris map or a yield map and shift where they take their samples so that they're getting representative places. Kind of like a doctor has diagnostic spots it takes your temperature in certain places and listens to your breathing and others then just randomly do it across your body on a you know a pattern that you know we go to certain places because we want to get certain information. And I think zone maps can be especially helpful for for stuff like that and then last you know if we're trying to do things like seeding rates, nitrogen management we really have to get the map right in those because you think about fertility. If we’re off a little bit on our P and K, it's probably not going to show up in the first year right. Second year, third year, unless you're right on the cusp. So, you know if we're just kind of slinging out enough fertilizer that's probably okay there's a there's a nutrient bank there with population with seed. If you under populate your good soil it's going to show up in the first year there's no seed bank well unless someone's from left last from last year. And same with the low yielding- when we are the low potential zones when we're putting high rates there immediately we're wasting seed, we're causing additional stress on those plants by overpopulating it and same with nitrogen. You know especially if you're an advisor if you get it wrong it's going to show up. That yellow corn is going to stick out like a sore thumb so having the right spatial map for those inputs is incredibly useful. And grid sampling well, it's very helpful I think for getting a baseline of P and K. When we look at some of those other applications, it might not yield the best results for growers.

Samantha: Someone mentioned to me once about how much like the moisture really influences the EC maps and so they talked about potentially sampling for moisture to calibrate the sensors. Are there any other things like that like maybe with Ph that you're kind of calibrating these sensors based upon samples?

Tyler: Yeah, that's one of the, I think best developments when we came out with the organic matter sensor was we started to encode the data so and we created a process where maps can actually come back to Veris and we can review them for just quality control type measures, but also users started providing us lab samples and we were able to do a validation or calibration where we would take that EC reading and be able to calibrate it to CEC or cation exchange capacity. Take that infrared reading from an optical sensor and shift it or use it you know just a regression calibration to organic matter. And same with Ph because Ph is nice but most people want to have a buffer Ph and so we would use a lot you know some targeted samples about four samples from a field to do a calibration. And so, the additional benefit of just having a lab number and having it validated is now any effect of moisture. You know I'm at this field when it was dry and this field over here one is wet and because it's a relative sensor it can't really compare you know the unit of measurement with EC as millisiemens per meter. I can't compare those two, and I can't create a strategy based on millisiemens per meter on those two fields. But, once I get it to CEC I can say hey every area that's 15 to 20 cc, I want to put 100 pounds of nitrogen. Whatever that formula or strategy might be you can start to apply that across your farm, across your trade across, your trade territory. And it's also been useful when as folks are moving towards models growth models, nitrogen models having a fixed number and so moisture can play an impact does impact the Veris readings. But it's just a background relative measure you know element of it as long as it's a consistent moisture across the field there. We need to in your area with pivots we need to map the corners separately from the pivot and then use some statistical methods to bring those together. But moisture and trying so that's the direction we would like to go is calibrate it to a known property where there's a lot of research already done with advice on OM, CEC, Ph and even sand cell clay we can calibrate the EC to sanso clay. We'd rather go that direction than using moisture readings to normalize and make a normalized EC map which you know it does some of the benefit, but I think there's more benefit in calibrating it to a lab number.

Samantha: That's interesting, good to know.

Jackson: that's good to know so obviously we we want to keep talking about exactly what Veris does,

that makes Veris unique. But, would you mind telling us a little bit about what other on-the-go

soil sensors are out there on the market and maybe what the pros and cons of these different sensing 

paradigms are? For example like with Veris um as far as I understand it, it's an intrusive sensor

so, it's actually going to break the soil surface to take some measurements whereas there are some 

sensors out there that are basically just you know glide over the top surfacial type sensors so would

you mind kind of explaining the difference in those and talking about the pros and cons for us? 

Tyler: Yeah, yeah definitely uh there is probably more that have come on the market in the last few years than by the first 15 years of Veris's existence and so we really are actually excited about it because I think like I mentioned it one of the biggest things we're preaching is soil and so the more folks who are out there saying that soil matters we need to map it we need to manage it the better. And the thing we have pushed because we're friends with a lot of people in this industry that a lot of people who are developing these sensors and promoting them is using them right. Because when our technology is used correctly and when their technology is used correctly they make good maps so the other EC sensor is it's also called EM is electromagnetic sensing and that's a way of measuring the same soil property uses the same unit of measurement they just instead of directly injecting electricity into the soil which is what Veris does they use in a a magnetic field and so it's a non-intrusive way and it has that benefit of not breaking this soil surface. That would be the benefit from it and like I said when it's used correctly it makes a good map. Veris, I think what we like about the fact that we're touching the soil is that when we're touching the soil there there's no interference. When you're using any type of sensor that's above the ground anything between this field can  cause that reading to shift and so over the day as moisture or humidity changes, temperature changes, if you go under power lines there's a change in magnetic field. If you're in a vineyard and there's magnetic or metal objects around that can cause interference. Good operators know how to manage around that and still make good maps. You know poor operators don't. The other reason that we're okay with touching the soil is it allows us to add additional sensors on that need to engage the soil. And because those other sensors engage the soil they're typically have metal in them, which does not allow or historically hasn't allowed the EM sensor to be around that. I think there's some ways now you can have metal around an EM sensor. So, that would be you know the EM technology it, like I mentioned it only measures soil texture just like Veris only so measure soil texture. I think there are companies out there that would like it to measure other things that like compaction and while soil texture does relate to compaction it's not a compaction measurement. The other one that's gaining interest is gamma sensing which should be a passive ready measurement of isotopes and this is it's kind of a it sounds star trek-y and new and innovative but we actually looked at the sensing technology in the 90s and have we still have some sitting on the shelf. It's a similar what we found is it is a similar reading to EC that what's happening is it's measuring decaying isotopes and you go across the field and it measures the quantity counts of those you know that isotope where you have. What we found is where you have clay smaller particles more particles you have higher readings there and in sandy soils you have less and you have lower readings there. And so it really just ended up being expensive EC map and but we're very excited that there could be potential for it to be more. But really what what we've found in a lot of university research, actually Adamchuck who is at University of Nebraska is now at McGill University a college in Canada did a really uh a comprehensive study with Veris. All of our sensor suite the EM and gamma and and users can or listeners can look up that study but it really found that our three technologies are measuring soil texture primarily and there might be some correlation of nutrients that that correlate to the soil texture you know map but it's not actually measuring soil nutrients in the soil. So those are the that would be the main technologies on the go that we see out there. Ph the precision planting has a technology that they put on their firmers of planter firmers that has an optical sensor and that optical sensor they're using to estimate moisture, organic matter and temperature. I think temperature think the temperature might be a little different sensor but it's yeah it's all on there. And I think that they're uh I do know they're attempting to estimate CEC from that same sensing technology, which it's in it's a you know a neat place to put the sensor really impressed by the the embodiment with the mechanics of the sensor. That same research that I think was done at McGill and others have found that in some research we've done is optical sensing is a wonderful technology for estimating organic matter that the soil color is largely driven by that you know it's dark because of the carbon and soil and the other thing that can make soil dark is moisture where there's more or less it's going to be darker and using the same sensor for both those to you know for both those properties can be challenging and especially also than estimating cec from an optical sensor. It's asking a lot of one sensing technology. 

Samantha: Just think along the lines of the intrusive versus the ones that are just on the soil surface, does the increased adoption of no-till and cover crops does that influence how some of these technologies work as well or is it not make a big difference. 

Tyler: There's some hardcore no-tillers who might object to it but our family farm we've been no-tilling for 25 years and we don't object to it there. You know the footprint is about six inches wide for our organic matter sensor every 60 feet and so it's a small percentage uh that would be touching soil. I think 

Samantha: I was actually going to say like the accuracy of the ones that don't aren't intrusive yeah that was like the opposite way.

Tyler: okay there was a study done in Portugal actually that studied using Veris direct contact or intrusive versus non-intrusive and that the changes in vegetation uh on on the field did influence that and made it more of a challenge yeah.

Jackson: Good to know. So, let's see where do we want to go here?

Samantha: Well, that's going to ask, I think you hit on this earlier. But I just want to ask this question because I really like it. So, what has on-the-go soil mapping like the Veris units that you've mentioned sensors enabled that was previously unattainable in agriculture?

Tyler: Profitability. Let's see I think the neat things are pretty obscure in different markets uh there's a thing called the root not nematode in the south that is a big problem in cotton fields. And to manage it there's a product called Tellown there might be one other and it's it is extremely expensive the application I think is upwards of a hundred dollars per acre to kill this nematode. And I think that the real problem is not the cost of the product but availability. It's a byproduct of carpet manufacturing something unique like that and so even just getting your hands on it is challenging so what happens though is the the populations of the root not nematode are elevated or only present in the sandiest parts of farm fields. So, people use the Veris map go out there and find the sandy parts of their field and only apply teleon at the fumigant in that area. Which saves them lots of money enables them to grow a crop that otherwise wouldn't be possible because of the damage by the nematode. And they they're able to conserve the product for only the fields that absolutely need it. You know there there'd be ideas like that in other places one is gaining adoption in Western Europe and I think is going to come here in the U.S. K-State has actually been researching it is the use of variable rate herbicide based on soil applied herbicides as we're finding that it's growing more and more important to move back and as our options are limited is that on every almost every label of soil applied herbicide is different rates for different soil types yet we go out and put the same rate and either we're not getting efficacy in certain areas or we're over applying in some areas and you know think about Atrazine and what what damage can be caused by over application. So, carryover so using the Ph map too you know the properties they care about that label is Ph, organic matter, and CEC or soil texture and those are three properties where soil scanning is capturing. So, some of those are kind of I don't know more unique. I think irrigation probably another one we haven't seen vri variable rate irrigation become ubiquitous but at least moisture probe placement to to kind of do scheduling knowing where to put the soil moisture probes multiple or putting one in a kind of an average soil type is that enough you want some more?

 Samantha: Those are awesome examples, very specific that was awesome.

Jackson: Yeah I really like hearing about the niche uh kind of the niche markets that are potentially coming to the U.S. and that a lot of people may not think about out here in in the land of corn and soybeans right now. 

Samantha: Yeah, the herbicides one interest is interesting because everyone wants to skip to the like the sight and spray type of thing, but I think what you're talking about is a much more attainable and reasonable step and yeah I think that's really fascinating.

Tyler: Yeah it really you know getting the problem taken care of before it emerges out usually is a better way of doing it and a lot of that research has already been done by the companies about you know what rates are best in different areas. Another application that I think would be more profound on a broad scale for agriculture is something we were talking about before we got on is is how we do our trials. You know whether it's simple on-farm trials is understanding the underlying soil properties is important because if you put one treatment on good soil and one treatment on poor soil you're not testing your you know your test you're testing soil and uh and that happens from unfarmed trials to hybrids to understand you know where are making sure that we either have uniform soil that we're testing on and that's good for just finding out which hybrid variety is you know needs to be promoted. But then after that as we move to characterizing hybrids, varieties we see this with you know trees in California. Vines grapevines is that certain varieties like certain soil conditions they can tolerate low Ph they can tolerate high Ph they like wet feet they can you know this is drought resistant well being able to go now not avoid variability and that some of the testing is avoiding variability the next more advanced step is exploiting it let's go test in some of those areas let's get on the side of that hill and put a bunch you know put a trial there and just see see what survives. And that I think could could really help get some improved and tailored products for certain conditions and a lot of our breeding is done on ice cream soils as they call it and really you know with the hopeful adoption of more multi hybrid multi-variety planting capabilities we're not just looking for the the highest performing you know hybrid on good soil. We want what's the best you know leaf structure on side slopes what does really good in um you know areas with poor drainage because that's what we have in our farm fields. We don't all have those flat nice places to farm.

Samantha: You hit it on the head.

Jackson: Yeah, you bringing that up just frustrates me so much right now because the research that I do is sensor based fertigation so right now we're stuck with full pivot links that we have to make treatments out of and they're 15 degree sectors in the field and it's really painful because we can't put our treatments you know where we have uniform soil types within a certain rep and so there are certain treatments that just end up you know just because of that EC limitation some of those natural soil limitations out there just do not yield as well. And so some of those treatments just do not they get the short end of the stick you know it's like this isn't a fair test of what we're doing.

Tyler: Yeah, that that is challenging and then the challenge will be even if you had a perfectly pie shaped field to do your testing on, no farmer has that to apply that information based on but right you need to have it controlled for your testing and then you know the next step is helping them understand what the major soil type in that wedge is however it might be.  

Jackson: Yeah, that on-farm research is it's just such an important concept. I think almost every interview we've had for this podcast so far people have said that that is probably the number one immediate application of precision ag technologies right now.

Tyler: Yeah, yeah going back to Terry Griffin, he and I served together on the board at the Kansas ag research technology association just a bunch of farmers get together and do research and geek out about it. But it doesn't have to be you know people who love GIS applications anymore I mean just trying different things in whole you know field strips instead of small treatments is going to probably benefit farmer more than you know reading I don't know some farm magazine at times.

Jackson: Absolutely, what are some considerations for a potential customer of yours to make when trying to decide what the right type of sensor is for their operation?

Tyler: Yeah, it really depends on what the grow or the agronomist or researcher wants to accomplish but you know we've really tried to we're a precision ag only company we're not adapting or geological or environmental tools and just hoping it fits the ag market we're really trying to understand that farmers are going to use this, agronomists are going to use this so we've created models that hopefully fit their operation so typical maybe agronomist or consultant model would be our utility vehicle model the u3 it can be pulled by a John Deere gator a Kawasaki mule can be transported easily you know that's measuring all those soil properties EC, OM,Ph, topography can be used for a lot of different applications. A grower on the other hand might be interested in our IScan model which is able to be mounted to a tillage tool, a planter a side dress bar a lot of different applications or ways you can mount that and you can passively be collecting that data while you're doing another field operation. And that's probably one of the more exciting avenues of where rovers is going is a lot of our focus has been on inputs. How do we better manage inputs. When we start putting sensors on tillage tools and on planters it's we're yeah we're getting that data we'll be able to use that in management zones but man a lot of these tools now have on-the-go adjustments. Vertical tillage especially we've got gang angle which is you know throwing more or less dirt more you know more or less aggressive we can go deeper you know same with cultivator even now we can change depth on the go without tipping the machine back and forth. All that happens you know we have those adjustments because we want to accomplish different things on our fields at different times of the year but also in different parts of the field. I'm thinking about the areas that you know when we talked about earlier when you get into that heavy clay if you're to have the same tillage setting that you did on that nice loam soil you might be going too deep and you're going to be bringing up clods you're going to be making a washboard and so when that planter comes back it's going to have a challenging time getting a good seed bed or the seed planted right. And getting sensors onto those tools is going to allow us to enable the farmer to do a better job managing each part of those fields. And even you know if we put on our you know looking into the future glasses and trying to see what what's going to come that is what I'd say is the first step towards automation autonomous farming is you know we can have an autonomous tractor pretty easy we already have it but we need autonomous implements too because right now it's a, you know someone in the cab deciding what's which what changes need to be made back there and our tillage and planting sensors can really help provide the information about the ground conditions and what's happening to optimize that. Those settings and feed it into a system to allow automation.

Jackson: That is brilliant. I recently heard some more stuff about you know kind of John Deere and some of those places really starting to look at automating their implements and I had not thought about how Veris could tie into that and kind of provide the sensor backbone that's needed to create those control systems for those type of units.

Tyler: Yeah, I mean it's, I've been skeptical of ai and I don't know some of these buzzwords you know big data. But I was, I've been doing so we're no-till farmers but we recently had a lot of floods and we had to do some vertical tillage on some fields and um going across the landscape. I just really it was just hard to imagine wanting to do the same thing on each you know on the side slope on the depressions going through these different contrasting environments. I got introduced to to soil variability by my grandpa when he was teaching me how to plow and disc a fieldand there was a far part of the field he said that's a that's an alkali spot and when you get there you're going to have to downshift because it's real hard on you know. You know I was a rebellious kid instead of downshifting I just lifted the machine out of the ground to plow the disc out of the ground so I could keep going faster. Well , that was you know that's the realization that there's differences in these fields and we need to manage it. And so Veris can help put gypsum in that alkali area and help flocculate the clay and improve the soil. But also, we can help with the making sure that all the implements that go across it are smart too. And not a teenage field operator like here.

Samantha: This could be getting way off topic, but I was just thinking we also have some skeptical 

thoughts about on-the-go like you're saying about some new technologies and some of these things

you know we do work with active sensors that are on the go sensing technologies and there are 

challenges with that as well lag time you know the noise and the data so it'll be interesting 

how all those are overcome as well with some of the new technologies you're talking about.

Tyler: Yeah, noise and bad data is like I mentioned the bad maps is a big problem, but noise and stuff like that is and that's one of the reasons why we set up that quality control process on our maps where the data actually comes to Veris and we have a team of individuals who look at the maps review it give report card call people up make sure that they are operating the sensors well and because we need high quality data. There's gonna be expensive decisions based on this since we need to get it right and we've seen the market and the industry react to that and so we've actually had users of those other sensors I was talking about begin sending their data to us for us to review and so we can now ingest EM data.We've worked with gamma data from the U.S. and actually around the world and providing that same quality control review so that they and then management zone creation so that you know that it actually has that stamp of approval and they have that confidence moving forward that they have a good map.

Samantha: That's good to hear, we talk about data quality a lot which actually I was going to ask you this. Are you guys thinking about making a or maybe you already have a software that will do management zone generation? 

Tyler: Yeah, again I think we- people know Veris for EC. The users of our more advanced platforms and more recently be more familiar with some of the tools we have we have a cloud-based platform called field fusion and that's where the upload of our maps and where we do our feedback and quality control happens. But beyond that that's where we the namesake field fusion is, we're fusing together those different layers into management zones and so we do have a cloud-based software platform and that really came out of this you know user experience of I've got all these maps what do I do with them? And really stepping in and helping people make those like I mentioned application specific management zones. So, on that service we've got a seating prescription map we don't tell you what population we don't know from sign of Kansas what farmer in Ohio should, and but we do know that these are different soils they've got different water holding capacity they like have different yield potential and this is where we would say and we can change rates. Here's a map of we go back to iron deficiency chlorosis this is where we see a high risk it's got high Ph, it's a heavy soil it's the depressional. This is where if you're gonna you know one of the ways you combat it is changing uh increasing soybean population because they're at risk for IDC. This is where you should check the rates the highest here's the next medium zone and this is you know Ph's and the sixes that type of tool we make the management zones we give you the tools to put in prescriptions and download it send it to some of the major platforms or download it put it in your own gis software. But yeah, a lot of those tools from mapping to prescription, Veris now offers.

Jackson: Very, very nice so is that kind of the what's on the horizon and

kind of the direction that the company is moving now or are there also some exciting developments

in terms of sensing technologies that may be on the horizon? And you can tell us about a 

little bit more.

Tyler: Well, the white board behind me may be blank but we do have some ideas in the hopper. No, I think you know we really are it's fun because we're a 25-year-old startup company we've got electrical engineers, mechanical engineers farm kids and we this is we just love this stuff. And we're I think we're developing on multiple fronts sensor development for sure um a lot within implement control and then the other side would be on the agronomy and how do we use this data more intelligently. One of the things that we would love to see more people make use of you're talking about yield analysis is how do we look at the soil and the yield together and one of the more advanced ways we see it is that the soil you know if some people say well my yield map doesn't look like my Veris map, so the Veris map what values it provided me well that's probably a good thing if you know to some degree because if they look the same then actually well that would be the best thing because it means your limiting factor is your soil. If your poor soil yielded poorly and your good soil yielded great well you didn't make any mistakes. I guess you could say I mean maybe you could have brought everything up but what we like to analyze is to look at okay here's my poor soil and here'ssome areas part of that that's yielding even lower. And here's my good soil and I've got some that's you know high yielding and some that's yielding a medium level well how do I go in there do I have a drainage problem uh fertility problem did my neighbor drift onto my field. But I've got this is my good yielding soil let me look at my yield data and see where I have divergent yields. And I can fix some of those problems especially the missing middle I mean we like pat ourselves on the back for our high yielding areas and you know kick ourselves for the low yield. But that middle area how much of that middle area is good soil and could be raised up by some sort of management change. And so, using those advanced analytics where we look atsimilar soils but divergent yields- I think can really help especially crop consultant scouts to understand what's going on go there and figure it out because we've seen you know same soil but 20% yield difference that that's some big dollars that you can fix that you don't have to fix the soil you have to fix some outside problem that's probably manageable. 

Jackson: 100% I couldn't agree more. Looking at fields where I can actually see that the EC map matches the yield it's super exciting because I'm like okay well this this really explains a lot of it we may be able to say okay you've got a compactionary in this particular area of the field because it's a soil type that's very prone to compaction. I actually just had a conversation with a grower yesterday where we were talking through the EC map and saying hey these are these are your most likely factors either water limited during the year we didn't have enough irrigation in this particular area, or you know it was a compaction issue we've gone over the field too many times especially after having a lot of rainfall last year maybe this area was especially prone to compaction it's fantastic being able to kind of pare down what those issues might be. 

Tyler: Yeah, that's exactly right I mean, if your yield map and your soil map look the same then all you have to do is manage those different soils you know as a whole and find out what the optimum strategy is for each of the soils. When they're different then that's when the complexity comes in even an additional layer you just have more things to explore but there's also probably more upside that you can explore through some good agronomy some good scouting.

Samantha: Okay, so what is one piece of advice that you'd offer to our listeners out there whether those be crop consultants, researchers or farmers what would you like to tell them.

Tyler: Oh, of all the questions I probably should have thought through that one ahead of time.  I mean we talked about on-farm trials I think a lot of this comes down to validating it yourself. There's just here's a farm magazine right here you can read a lot of new things are coming out and maybe it's slow down a little bit maybe the Silicon Valley you know angel capital and you know is coming down our venture capital. So, we're getting a little less vaporware out there and vapor products but just trying it trying it and validating it. I think one of the things that we've benefited from is a lot of scientific review as your grad students you've used our equipment a lot of the students have come through UNL have. And while it's been a challenge to have a rigorous scientific review of our products. Once they've been validated now the pivot is less from do these sensors work to how do we get these sensors to work? And so, I would encourage growers, consultants to apply their own rigorous review of products that come out. Demand that of their extension agents their universities to try things and help understand it. And not to be skeptical or reject all because there's a lot of new things that are coming out to probably have value. But not jumping in without doing some research ahead of time.

Jackson: Every time that we get to the end of the season and I start looking at data and I start looking

at all these different layers that we've collected. I'm always asking myself or tell myself I really 

need to learn geostatistics or I've got to learn how to use this stuff better because

there's so much stuff out there it's like how do we use all of this to improve what we're doing

is it's such a challenging and exciting problem.

Tyler: Yeah, and I not to plug our software but one of the things that I like about field fusion is, it's user friendly it's I even I can use it because I think for a long time the keys of the castle to precision ag have been held by the you know the computer nerds. I don't know how to use ARC-GIS or you know r or some of these advanced how am I supposed to do it I don't want to go to any you know some time and do a software class fora week and so finding tools that are on one hand easy to use but we don't want to over-simplify it and then you got you know farm management tools that you know help with accounting and marketing and marriage advice and you know just everything. Where is it this is just something that I can look at maps and start analyzing and making some decisions without it having to be everything or so simple that it's nothing you know that's kind of a challenge and I think growers will respond to that when they start to see it. 

Samantha: We've seen a lot of examples of our management zones are very much trying to be simplified

they're you know only trying to use a couple of layers or they're always using three zones

they're not really thinking it through. So yeah it's very interesting what you guys are doing and

I'd love to see that platform.

Tyler: Yeah, it's a challenge for everybody to try to do

it right we can just use one satellite image and really screw up or we can use

you know even a Veris map and uh just try to make it so detailed that even like a little like

inner point shows up as a big blip I mean there's things we can do wrong and so

that's where we talk about that quality control method and management zone creation by people

who understand soil sensor data and then giving that to the local folks who know what inputs what

varieties make sense and apply their knowledge on top of that is a is a pretty powerful combination.

Samantha: We'd, like to offer a big thank you to Tyler Lund for joining us on the FarmBits podcast. It was great to have someone who has been so involved with the on-the-go soil mapping since its inception provide some detailed information about the ins and outs of the technology.

Jackson: There was so much content in that episode so as happens really too often I had two favorite parts

of this episode. One was when Tyler said that we can't change the soil but we can change how we

manage it to get the maximum potential and profit out of different areas of the field. It was such 

a clear description of what we were trying to do with site-specific crop management in digital ag. My second favorite part of the episode was Tyler talking about some of the important factors to consider with intrusive soil mapping implements 

and non-intrusive soil mapping implements. There's a lot more nuance there than you might think too, 

the pros and cons of each different soil mapping paradigm or way of going about doing things 

including tillage practices and rotational practices.

Samantha: I thought that was great as well. I thought 

the discussion on how sensors and management zones are not the same for all different applications.

The management zones and how we react to soil variability is different for whether we're doing

a seeding prescription or a fertility recommendation or even site-specific pesticide

applications for some of these things we need to be a lot more precise and utilize different layers

such as topography and organic matter.

Jackson: Again, that's a piece of nuance that a lot of people don't think

about some people think a zone is a zone but that's not always true. So, that's a wrap for

this episode and we look forward to you joining us next week as we hear a discussion with Dr. Trenton

Franz about how exactly measurements from these soil sensors and from soil sampling are converted. 

Thank you for taking the time to join us today on the FarmBits podcast, if you enjoyed this episode, 

please subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Youtube or wherever you listen to podcasts

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Jackson: We would like to thank Nebraska Extension for their support of this podcast and their

commitment to providing high quality informational material to members of the agricultural community

in Nebraska and beyond.

Samantha: The opinions expressed by the hosts and guests on this podcast

are solely their own and do not reflect the views of Nebraska Extension or the University of

Nebraska- Lincoln. We look forward to you joining us next week for another episode of FarmBits.

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