SBIR Phase I:In-Situ Soil Composition Analysis using Neutron Analysis Techniques for Precision Farming Applications
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will investigate the ability of prompt gamma neutron analysis (PGNA) techniques to provide in situ subsurface (0-48 inches) localized (<1m2 resolution) scanning of soil nitrogen/nutrient/water concentrations and soil properties in real-time for precision agricultural field mapping. Existing sampling and chemical assay field mapping techniques provide only near-surface (<6 inch depth) aerially-sparse data. This allows application of only a coarsely tailored top-dressing of fertilizer. With high-resolution and depth information, fertilizer and soil usage can be fully optimized to reduce cost and maximize yield. The combined benefits of an electronic neutron generator that uses no radioactive material and the elemental analysis capabilities of PGNA would result in a safe and effective soil scanning technology. The primary objective of this Phase I project is to determine the expected sensitivity of the soil analyzer using MCNP modeling. These sensitivity results will, in turn, set the requirements for the neutron generator and gamma-detection systems.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is reduction in overall fertilizer use, ability to improve plant nutrient uptake, and, consequently, higher yields, leading to an estimated value proposition of $8 Billion annually for the agriculture industry (based on 2008 data). A key aspect of Phase I work will be to assess the commercial viability of a PGNA-based soil scanner and gauge market acceptance to determine the expected fraction of this value that can be captured relative to production costs to ascertain commercial feasibility. In addition to monetary returns, reductions in fertilizer run-off and better soil management will yield an environmental payoff in the form of a more sustainable and productive agriculture industry that benefits everyone.
Small Business Information at Submission:
2109 South Oak Street Champaign, IL 61820
Number of Employees: