NEC06075 NERC Innovation - mySoil survey-grade development

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Soils and Land Use (Bangor)


Our overarching aim is to monitor soil properties and how they change, nationally and globally. This is important because soils are the major store of terrestrial carbon that buffers climate change, and management impacts soil health, e.g. acidity, structure and nutrient delivery. Landowners and policy makers need to understand if interventions to improve soils work and need tools that enable rapid data acquisition. This proposal builds on the world leading NERC mySoil digital iphone application used by more than 50,000 people globally. mySoil provides basic soil information on an iphone and allows endusers to upload data and photos through crowd sourcing, with more than 4000 records uploaded and the past few years.

In consultation with our industry partners we propose to further develop the NERC mySoil app into an industry standard, survey grade application that can collect georeferenced soil data, on and offline. Each year we fail to capture £millions of unstructured soil data which is analysed for small businesses, just 2% of which could form a substantial community resource for producing soil maps or benchmarking/comparing soil data.

We will be working with the National Trust, NRM laboratories, Agricultural Industries Confederation and EU Joint Research Centre to incorporate NERC tools into their agri-environment business or monitoring and public and business outreach. Our objectives are to expand the offline capability, and develop field protocols for collecting soil information that can inform indicators of soil change. Translation into several common European languages will ensure wide accessibility.

Initial data from our survey indicates that the agricultural, horticultural, conservation and education sectors are the greatest beneficiaries of information delivered through NERC digital platforms, both mySoil and the UK Soil Observatory. Our partners work with all these sectors and seek to have a tool that is freely available and can be used by both professionals and the general public. They will use their extensive resources to identify a range of end users for testing across business sectors and will help with translation.

The major benefits identified from our survey of current end users are, 'increasing their knowledge and awareness of soil resources' and 'improving their outputs and processes'. This proposal focuses on improving outputs and processes by helping our partners to collect data to inform them on the state and change of soils on the lands for which they have interest. The data will support the National Trusts Land Capability assessment and the JRC/Eurostat LUCAS survey (Land Use and Coverage Area frame Survey); both of these inform policy. Moreover, companies, scientists and the public benefit from data that can be incorporated into open soil mapping projects like soilGRIDS produced by the World Soil Information Centre.

Planned Impact

We will change the way that soils data is collected, opening up a new avenue for soil data acquisition and developing tools for an industry standard survey tool for collecting unstructured survey data. Our vision is to both maintain and enhance our position as the world leader in community soil data acquisition platforms. We seek Impact in a number of ways:

The tools we create will transform soil data acquisition within National Trust, EU and SME's providing an industry standard for collecting georeferenced soil data. Moreover, we expect the tools to be picked up by educational organisations and R&D.

The data collected will improve the generation of digital soil maps, for example through the development of a data pipeline to the World Soil Information Centre in the Netherlands.

The data collected will enable endusers such as NT to measure the state and trend of their soils and benchmark them against other structured survey data. This will change the way that NT makes management decisions regarding soils, providing them with the evidence base to assess soil management interventions and their success.

JRC will provide NERC tools as a way of collecting soil data within structured and unstructured soil surveys across Europe. They will provide the app free of charge to the SME's contracted to collect soil information to inform EU policy.

Data on soil change derived from these surveys underpins the informing of EU policy with regard to soils. Methods and techniques used in the UK and Europe start to become adopted in other countries around the world.

Provision of these tools and data storage facilities will aid Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goals such as promoting sustainable global growth and aiding agricultural development. These free tools provide the potential for developing countries to use smart phones to collect data. According to the Financial Times (Jan 26, 2016), 'By 2025 half of sub-Saharan Africa's billion strong population will have internet access, 360m via smartphones according to McKinsey, the consultants.' Contributors will know that any data collected will be stored securely in safety and will contribute to improved data products for their country.

UK analytical laboratories recommend the use of mySoil survey as a data capture tool for collecting georeferenced soil samples because the system would link with the many systems already in place that manage farm level data like muddy boots and gatekeeper.


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Description ISRIC World Soil Information Centre 
Organisation The Global Health Network
Department International Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Consortium (ISARIC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I visited ISRIC, based at Wageningen in July 2017. We investigated using mySoil data in their global soil products but the bias in the data precludes it's current use. However, we talked about new developments with mySoil-sample. mySoil-sample is a new smart data collection system designed to collect point data from universities or commercial organisations. ISRIC are interested in partnering with CEH in the development to take it global and make it a standard for point data collection.
Collaborator Contribution We discussed potential contributions, Rik van Den Bosch proposed he could allocate a programmer for 3 months to help with development.
Impact NA
Start Year 2016
Organisation National Institute of Agronomy and Botany (NIAB)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution CEH is developing a proof of concept for the mySoil-sample app that will be tested by Links: Elizabeth Stockdale, NIAB
Collaborator Contribution NIAB will undertake field testing with farmers and growers to test data collection.
Impact NA
Start Year 2017
Title iRecord Land and iRecord Soil 
Description We explored trademarking new names for our land and soil apps, but in the end decided to expand on the iRecord trademark adding the suffixes, Land and Soil to two new tools that are under development. 
IP Reference  
Protection Trade Mark
Year Protection Granted 2017
Licensed Yes
Impact NA
Title iRecord - soil 
Description iRecord soil builds on the iRecord family of apps developed in CEH. These apps are for recording ecological information. iRecord-soil is a test platform for collecting georefreneced soil information that can be linked to soil analysis records from commercial laboratories. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact This software is still under going development.