NEC06520 NERC mySoil-sample: Business Planning

Lead Research Organisation: NERC CEH (Up to 30.11.2019)


In 2008 (Defra, 2008) it was estimated that a 1% change in soil carbon was equivalent to the UK's annual greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel. Over the last 30 years the Countryside Survey has reported a ~10% decline in soil carbon from arable soils, supported by the National Soil Inventory data. The UK Government has recently committed to the 4 per Mille initiative to try and restore soil carbon to help mitigate climate change and improve soil structure and hydrological function. In order to achieve this we need data that shows the state and change in soil carbon while maintaining pH and soil productivity, especially in light of Brexit which will place new pressures on production and therefore soils.

In this proposal we will transform how soil data is collected by industry through planning for the creation of a digital data acquisition system, named mySoil-sample, that will enable farmers to collect 'smart soil data' with GPS located digital records using smart phones or the web that can be stored and shared. Industry collects in excess of 0.5 million soil samples each year that are analysed professionally in industry laboratories, but data collection is still primarily paper-based and fragmented.

This system will unlock the potential of farmer's data and feed into portals that enable benchmarking of soils. Moreover, this data set will enable NERC scientists to develop new science, data and maps to help industry and policy makers that is up to date and captures soil change, helping generate a more responsive industry.

Planned Impact

We are primarily targeting 3 stakeholder groups with this innovation with whom to generate impact:

*Agribusiness*: farmers who test soil and the commercial laboratories who analyse soil
Benefits: online digital data and record keeping, increased efficiency, open interpretive products to help benchmark their performance, high level policy data and statistics on soils that can provide an evidence base to user groups and unions.

*Landowners*: e.g. National Trust and major landowners who rent out land for agricultural production
Benefit: online record keeping of soil change across their estates.

*Policy makers*: who fund nutrient management plans and soil analysis
Benefits: They can see and access data they pay for and use it for high level policy development.

We seek to transform the way the stakeholders operate through the development of the mySoil-sample digital data capture platform. Within 2 years we aim to see 20% of users transferring from paper based records to digital. In 5 years we aim to see the industry moved entirely over to digital data capture for soil sampling. Again in 2 years we aim to be supplying anonymous data to open farmer web tools for benchmarking and interpretive summaries.

Through the enhanced data flows we will stimulate now business opportunities both in terms of data collection and interpretation. We seek to stimulate new markets so that more gardeners and allotment keepers will use soil testing. Moreover, we aim to provide UK business with the tools to seek new markets abroad. This may be in Europe and Western countries, but equally it may be in developing countries where the new cyber infrastructure, especially for android phones, will open up new opportunities.


10 25 50
Description NEC06484 UK: mySoil-sample, crowdsourcing digital soil data from industry and policy
Amount £100,938 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R009244/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 06/2019
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.