By Sara Ryan
Climate and Carbon affect our lives hand-in-hand, creating a feedback loop. The health and maintenance of this relationship is essential for the future of life on Earth. Carbon helps give soil its water-retention capacity, its structure (protection from erosion), and its fertility (increases microbial activity by providing a source of nutrients). Carbon Flux (movement of carbon between land and the atmosphere) heavily affects climate and hence the ability for current crops to produce required yields. Based in California, Agrology aims to give professionals in the agricultural sector the ability to monitor Carbon soil cycles and nano (localized) climates over their farms in real time and hence protect their crops from events such as drought and erosion. This month, the American Geographical Society spoke with Agrology CEO and Co-Founder, Mr. Adam Koeppel, to discuss the company’s goals and the future of Carbon, Climate and agricultural technologies.
Adam Koeppel’s interest in agriculture stems from his Californian upbringing, surrounded by specialty crops, which are food crops for human consumption. Working on his godparents’ orchard in high school and studying technologies such as drip irrigation in college, Mr. Koeppel began his agricultural career by looking into making irrigation efficient. Collaborations began between the three Co-founders of Agrology, Koeppel, Tyler Locke, and Kevin Kelly, and the company was born. Although originally focusing on issues surrounding the relationship between nano (localized) climates and agriculture through a technological lens, the issues of Carbon fluxes and soil Carbon kept reappearing throughout the Agrology customer base. Agrology’s goal became to understand customers’ emissions of all the greenhouse gasses (Carbon, along with Nitrous Oxide, etc.) and increase their ability to understand how global climate change and changes in local nano climates affect their crop yield. This focus on prediction, and emphasis on accessibility of real time data, sets Agrology aside from many other agricultural tech-based companies.
In order to meet their goal, Agrology developed two tactile products that can be set up in a few minutes and tracked from an Agrology mobile app:
The Agrology Sentinel Climate Monitoring System:
Monitors and predicts field-level data on smoke taint, drought and irrigation optimization, microclimate threats from extreme weather, as well as pest and disease outbreaks. Delivers predictions up to 4 days in advance to desktop and mobile apps using hardware such as multi-parameter ground-truth soil probes: canopy sensors and irrigation sensors.
The Agrology Arbiter Carbon Monitoring System:
Helps growers track and quantify soil carbon in real time. Allows growers to receive critical alerts on anomalies by delivering continuously monitored and quantified soil carbon fluxdata to mobile or desktop devices. Issues weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual carbon reports, enabling growers to easily report on and quantify carbon emissions.
The precise measurements and prediction of all sorts of climate parameters made by Agrology’s equipment is what ties it so closely to Geography. By observing variations within acres, geography has shown a significant influence on the behavior of carbon fluxes and climate changes within Agrology customer farms. A case study of a vineyard in Sonoma highlighted this, by producing two different wine tastes within the same farm. Although farmed in the exact same way, the east and west portions of the farm produce two different wine grape varieties. Observing the parameters that drive this difference in wine through Agrology technologies has allowed growers to understand these nuances further. As explained by Mr. Koeppel: “The role geography plays is through our location-focused, ground-truth data. All the specific places of consequence on customer farms, from the highest ridge to the valleys, allow for a higher resolution dataset.”
Like many young startups, one of Agrology’s biggest obstacles has been Covid-19. In conjunction with many prospective customers being forced to reroute their funds away from investing in new technologies, supply chain disruption from Covid-19 affected physical devices and software production. Expected skepticism surrounding new technologies has manifested as funding restrictions both from government and from sales. As Mr. Koeppel notes, “Carbon monitoring was put out in early 2023, and people want to see scientific research to show how this works, proving that we’re accurate and credible. Funding has been a challenge, but it will become less of a challenge as time goes on.”
Agrology has already begun collaborating with universities to support research that improves their work and science. By getting more devices in the hands of young people focused on climate science, Agrology can assist in understanding how climate change is costing sequestration of carbon in the soil. A focus on climate-smart investments by the government with long-term capacity building and climate-smart agriculture training for farmers and students would greatly advance soil science and support education on newer areas of the Earth. The company’s current aim remains to help farmers on the ground understand in real time the dynamics of their farms’ carbon cycles and climate, hence improving yield and crop protection, but a future in education and technological expansion is on the horizon.
Visit the Agrology website to learn more about their products and stay up to date on the new advancements from the company.