Scientists working with North Dakota State University (NDSU) are hinting at possibility of using sensors like seeds planted in the soil, which can directly monitor and record the environment of the soil in which sensors are located. These sensors are NDSU property, who hold the patent.
Known as Sensing Earth Environment Directly or SEED, they are self-sufficient and may allow planting them directly in the soil along with seeds, through mixing sensors with the seed mix. Once planted, SEED is able to interact with an instrument located underneath a vehicle used for purposes of agriculture which measures the exact conditions of the soil, moisture as well as chemical content, all of which are transmitted in real time.
The benefits of these sensors are many. They ensure optimal yield, because the chemical and moisture content are known and concentrate efforts to correct them; and since biodegradable sensors decompose there will be nothing left in the soil which can prove harmful.
Since these sensors do not contain any kind of batteries, their is much less toll on the environment. These sensors are small in size, of the same proportion as of seeds and are made from agriculture produce.
Technologically, these sensors adapt the concept of instruments called as ISFET (Ion-Selective Field Effect Transistor), which are capable of gauging ion changes in a particular medium. The ions act as “gate-electrodes” for the instrument. It is possible according to NDSU to create any number of sensors with different designs, each of which are made to find out different chemical properties like potassium, nitrogen or phosphorous. They enable users to assess the kind of soil that they need for tilling.
More importantly NDSU assures that any number of sensors can be implanted in the soil to asses various conditions. This technology is protected by intellectual properties mechanism, but licensing for developing them locally can be obtained.