Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

MobiLab Report Summary

Project ID: 719462

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MobiLab (Development of a mobile device for the quick on-site measurement of soil nutrients)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Today the application of fertilisers to agricultural fields is mainly based on estimations which often leads to overfertilisation with various negative consequences. The Austrian SME Pessl Instruments GmbH has developed a prototype of a nutrient sensor which is able to precisely and reliably determine the concentrations of the four most important plant nutrients (nitrate, ammonia, phosphate and potassium) in the soil simultaneously with just one device. The sensor is portable and easy to operate and can therefore be used directly in the field by all farmers without the need for any special knowledge. The integrated GPS module and the connection to an online platform make it perfectly suitable for precision farming.
Pessl’s nutrient sensor does not only provide advantages to millions of European farmers, who can save money by reducing their fertiliser applications to the real demand and thereby optimising their yields, but also to the environment by preventing the pollution of groundwater with nitrates or saving finite natural fertiliser resources.
However, further work is necessary to obtain a marketable product. Therefore, the aim of the project is the identification and implementation of the remaining necessary technological developments and the development of a business plan to enable a successful market introduction. As a result, the nutrient sensor will help European farmers to save up to 35 % of their applied fertiliser, leading to total potential annual savings of up to 6 billion € in the EU. At the same time Pessl GmbH will be able to significantly grow in terms of turnover, profit and employees and to further expand its leading position on the European market for precision farming products.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The most important activities conducted during phase 1 of the project comprised the calculation of the market potential of the nutrient sensor by determining the available fertilised agricultural area in Europe and assessing competing solutions for the determination of the nutrient concentrations in soils, the identification of technological developments needs and improvement potentials including the assessment of their feasibility and the development of a commercialisation concept. The main results of phase 1 are stated below:

- Calculation of the market potential: The nutrient sensor has a great market potential. Based on the current numbers of agricultural holdings and the area of fertilised agricultural fields in the EU, around 25,500 sensors can be sold if just 1 % of the agricultural holdings with more than 10 hectares of fertilised agricultural area buy the sensor. In the best case, more than 2.5 million nutrient sensors can be sold in the EU only. The nutrient sensor is superior to all competing solutions for the determination of nutrient concentrations in soils and can therefore exploit a large share of the market potential.

- Determination of the number of agricultural holdings with sufficient fertilised agricultural area: There are around 2.27 million agricultural holdings in the EU with more than 10 hectares of agricultural area that is regularly fertilised or would at least be suitable for fertilisation, mainly comprising arable land for crop production but also pastures and meadows. Moreover, there are various small agricultural holdings with less than 10 hectares of fertilised land, which can form associations to buy and operate one nutrient sensor together. Therefore, the total number of potential customers in the EU was calculated to be 2.55 million.

- Identification of competing products: There are 2 competing solutions for the determination of nutrient concentrations in soils available: Mobile laboratories based on photometry and analyses in specialised laboratories. Regarding precision, duration and costs of the analyses, Pessl’s nutrient sensor is superior to the mobile laboratories. Specialised laboratories are superior to Pessl’s sensor in terms of precision, but their analyses are much more expensive and take much longer. Therefore, Pessl’s sensor will be the best solution for nutrient analyses after its market introduction.

- Identification of technological development needs and improvement potentials: Although the development of the nutrient sensor is quite far advanced, development needs and improvement potentials were found in several of categories. These comprise technical engineering, software development, the development of additional process equipment, the conduction of field tests, the development of a concept for a series production, sales and product management, marketing activities and legal considerations.

- Assessment of feasibility of technological developments: All identified technological development needs and improvement potentials were assessed and considered feasible. Ideas and concepts for the implementation of many of them have already been developed.

- Development of a commercialisation concept: A successful commercialisation of the nutrient sensor can be expected. The necessary technological developments are feasible, the final product will be superior to competing solutions. Moreover, a marketing concept has been developed, necessary employees and production facilities have been planned and distribution partners have been found.

- Various further tasks: The legal framework, i.e. laws and regulations affecting the development and market introduction of the nutrient sensor on the European level, was investigated and a concept for IPR management was developed. Plans for the internal calculation of staff and costs were elaborated and risks of the project were assessed.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The work performed in the first stage of the innovation project can be divided into 3 categories: the assessment of the market potential of the nutrient sensor based on the number of agricultural holdings, on the availability of fertilised agricultural area and on the specific advantages over competing products; the identification of technological development needs and improvement potentials including the assessment of their feasibility; and the development of a commercialisation concept for the finalised nutrient sensor.
The results obtained in stage 1 of the project look very positive: The market potential based on the calculated demand for portable nutrient sensors is more than sufficient for a market introduction and the nutrient sensor offers unique advantages compared to competing solutions and is therefore superior to them. The implementation of the technological development needs and improvement potentials that have been identified is feasible and the finalisation of a marketable product is possible.
It is expected that these results will be confirmed in stage 2 of the project and that a marketable product will be developed.
Pessl’s new and innovative portable nutrient sensor will provide advantages to millions of European farmers, who can save money by reducing their fertiliser applications to the real demand and thereby optimising their yields, but also to the environment by preventing the pollution of groundwater with nitrates or saving finite natural fertiliser resources. Based on the results of the EU-funded project OPTIFERT, it is expected that up to 35 % of fertilisers can be saved.
With the nutrient sensor, Pessl will complement its portfolio of precision farming products, which currently already comprises devices for the determination of soil moisture, air and soil temperature, humidity, precipitation, sunshine intensity, wind direction, wind speed, and many more. These can all be integrated into the common web-based monitoring and control platform fieldclimate.com, offering an all-in-one-tool for the simultaneous monitoring of all relevant field parameters. Pessl will further expand its position in the field of precision farming and make the next step on the way to world market leadership.

Related information

Record Number: 192843 / Last updated on: 2016-12-14