“I’m a sort of adventurous geek – I love all things science, nature and environmental,” says Simon Fox. “I make it my business to know and read everything.”
This hunger led to a duel career as a soil scientist and software engineer – which proved perfect for developing OptiYield.
The platform provides a sophisticated soil analysis, using 27 points of data and 30,000 lines of computer code (which Simon has written himself), to calculate a soil’s nutrient needs based on the specific crop and market the grower is producing for.
Rather than just the nutrients present in the soil, OptiYield shows the nutrients available to the plant – resulting in better and more targeted nutrient applications.
For growers, this will save money and resources, boost yields and crop quality in terms of aesthetics, disease resistance, nutrient value and even shelf life, he explains.
Savings will also reduce pollution and CO2 emissions.
The tool is the culmination of Simon’s life-time’s investigation of the relationship between soils, nutrients, nutrient availability and crop development, kick-started by his first job as a fresh-faced soil scientist in Swaziland in the 1970s.
Here, he stumbled on a problem – Soil analysis techniques did not show nutrients available, only nutrients present, and were therefore not very useful for farmers.
This was the case for almost every nutrient – and little has changed since the 1960s, he adds.
“The bottom line is that soil analysis as conducted not only in the UK but worldwide is broken – even Defra themselves admit soil analysis for certain nutrients is ineffective or unreliable.”
“Things need to move on. Crop yields have remained almost static for 20 years despite increased uses of technology – crop nutrition is an important part of the reason why.
“Food production will need to increase and we need to do this without using more land, and without increasing fertiliser use.”
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