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Development of a mobile device for the quick on-site measurement of soil nutrients

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MobiLab (Development of a mobile device for the quick on-site measurement of soil nutrients)

Période du rapport: 2019-06-01 au 2020-02-29

Today the application of fertilizers to agricultural crops is mainly based on calculations, estimations, and recommendations and not on analyses of the actual demand of soil and plants. The resulting over-fertilization has substantial disadvantages: Farmers suffer from reduced yields and unnecessary expenses for fertilizers, groundwater is polluted, surface water bodies are eutrophicated, greenhouse gas is emitted from soils, and finite natural fertilizer resources are depleted. It is estimated that up to 35 % of the applied fertilizer could be saved if a method for the quick and simple determination of the fertilizer demand existed. Pessl Instruments GmbH, an Austrian SME specialised in the development of innovative products in the field of agricultural monitoring and precision farming, has developed MobiLab, a lab-on-a-chip sensor for the quick on-site determination of the concentrations of the most important plant nutrients (nitrate, phosphate and potassium) in the soil, based on the outcomes of the award-winning EU project OPTIFERT. MobiLab will enable farmers to determine the fertiliser requirements of their fields within just some minutes and without the need for any special knowledge.
The proper functioning and the great potentials of the technology have been proven, but further technological developments as well as the finalisation of a commercialisation concept were necessary to achieve the market breakthrough. Based on the outcomes of phase 1 of the project, all necessary steps for a successful market introduction of the MobiLab system were taken in the present phase 2.
The MobiLab 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 € on the EU level. At the same time, Pessl Instruments GmbH will be able to significantly grow in terms of turnover and profit and to further expand its leading position on the world market for precision farming products.
The third project periodic report of the H2020 project “MobiLab” contains summaries of all activities related to the following WPs starting from the 25th project month up to and including the 33rd project month i.e. June 2019 to February 2020.

The situation of the chip supply chain and production, the triggered and further adaptations required in the main device, SW and chemical analysis to make the new chips work properly, and the fact that measurements in winter are of little interest to the farmers, as they do not fertilize their fields during this period, impacted some WPs, as WP1, WP2, WP3, WP5, WP7. Find below the final status of each WP:

WP 1: Implementation of technological development needs and improvement potentials. The aim of WP 1 was the development and construction of a final prototype of the MobiLab system. MobiLab system and its SW were updated in order to make the new chips work properly.

WP 2: Product tests and calibration. In WP 2 the final prototype of the MobiLab system developed in WP 1 was calibrated by laboratories and thereby tested to confirm its proper functioning and ease of use. Corrective action has been taken and PESSL employees have visited Labs around Europe in order to run the tests and calibrate the MobiLab system.

WP 3: Establishment of a European network of „Sustainable Agriculture Experts“. In WP 3 a European network of independent “Sustainable Agriculture Experts” was established for the promotion and sale of the MobiLab system and further of our products.

WP 4: Series production concept. In WP4 all requirements for a series production of the MobiLab system were planned. These comprise the planning of the production line, of the production facility, of the workforce, and of the material supply. All deliverables were submitted in time based on the previous version of the MobiLab system. A second and final version of these deliverables were submitted after the conclusion of WP1 and WP2, considering the new chip production in it.

WP 5: Commercialisation concept. In WP 5 concepts for the marketing and for the distribution of the MobiLab system were developed. The distribution concept was prepared and further updated as requested by the European Commission. Many pieces of training were held in Europe in order to enable partners and distributors to present, sell, and support the MobiLab system. The MobiLab system was awarded the CE certification. However, the ETV certification will take longer than anticipated. The process was initiated and contact with the ETA Denmark established.

WP 6: LCA, CBA & Due Diligence. In WP 6 the economic and environmental performance of the MobiLab system was assessed in order to enable comparisons with competing solutions. This WP has been extended, i.e. started earlier and ends later. The tasks have been 100% subcontracted, as foreseen in the GA.

WP 7: Project management. WP 7 contains the management tasks of the project: project management, management of intellectual knowledge, and of the scientific data obtained during the project. Although no patent was filed yet, the possibility was not completely discarded.

The project was be concluded in February 2020.
Beyond the state of the art: The assembly of the chip, including the crucial bonding step, has been facilitated by a novel approach including physical instead of chemical steps. This approach allows for easy manufacturing.
The first market response indicates that the socio-economic impact will develop as predicted in the proposal.
iMETOS MobiLab