Note: You can listen to my conversation with Adam Wolf and Trenton Franz by clicking above.
Over the last year, ag tech startup Arable has partnered with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Daugherty Water for Food Institute and The Nature Conservancy to establish a network of Arable Mark sensors in Nebraska.
In the latest "Down in the Weeds" column, we visited with Adam Wolf, CEO and founder of Arable, and Trenton Franz, hydrogeophysicist at UNL, about the network and the unique features of the sensors.
"The challenge that I was trying to solve when I first started developing what became the Arable Mark was there was obviously weather stations going back some time, and those are problematic. But in agriculture, weather is not what people make their money on. They make their money on the plants they grow and sell. Yet there was no way to monitor what those plants are doing in the field, as well as to understand what were the factors that were driving plant performance," Wolf says. "It's been the way of agricultural research and farming for centuries to try a new practice and then just wait until the end of the season and see that something yielded better than something else."
This network includes about 20 Marks throughout Nebraska, including among growers involved in the Western Nebraska Irrigation Project through The Nature Conservancy.
"I started noticing the three to four sensors we had out there. There was quite a bit of variability both in space and time, and also a good amount of the rainfall was occurring at night. Through some discussions with producers and The Nature Conservancy, we said all these guys are trying to make their irrigation decisions. But they’re getting all their rainfall at night, and there's not a great network of sensors distributed around," Franz says. "We partnered with Adam and Arable, and put out about 15 across a 20-mile stretch just to look at the spatial variability of rainfall and to see if we can take advantage of this lag time when you're getting these half-inch rain events at night to when you're shutting off your pivot in the morning."