Soil analysis is an essential task for optimal crop production, determining the correct nutritional balance of fertilizers, and the prevention of environmental contamination. By arming farmers with the information they need to determine the optimum nutritional balance of growing media, soil analysis empowers growers to efficiently maximize crop yield.
Laboratory soil analysis methods traditionally use manual, spreadsheet-based systems for managing data. However, these approaches are inefficient and time-consuming, resulting in long waits for soil samples to be analyzed. The potential consequences of such delays are severe, as the outcome of an entire crop can be compromised if the farmer cannot accurately determine the appropriate fertilizer composition in time for planting or at critical points during the growing season.
Unsurprisingly, more efficient data management is the top priority for numerous soil analysis facilities and many of them look to laboratory information management systems (LIMS) to achieve this. In this article, we describe how Agrosavia improved the efficiency and capacity of their soil analysis workflow by implementing a LIMS with a centralized results portal and integrated business tools. This system, implemented across multiple laboratories, allows farmers to tailor their crop fertilization plans in response to real-time data, allowing them to optimize their crop yield.
Overcoming data management challenges associated with soil analysis
Agrosavia (Colombian Corporation for Agricultural Research) is a public non-governmental organization and provider of soil analysis services in Colombia. Through both public and private engagement and ongoing research, Agrosavia aims to strengthen thetechnological development and scientific research systems of the agricultural sector in Columbia.
Prior to initiation of the project, Agrosavia faced significant efficiency challenges in its testing workflow. A designated analyst would manually capture and enter the soil data into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which were then transferred to the agronomic specialists, who in turn, issued spreadsheet-based final reports and specific recommendations to the farmers. Due to manual data-entry and the lack of a centralized system, significant delays occurred throughout the workflow. With the analysis of a single soil sample taking up to eight hours over the course of a week, this represented a considerable setback in reporting vital data back to farmers. Delays in decision-making, such as the choice or amount of fertilizer at time-critical periods such as the start of the growing season, can have major consequences on crop yields.
Realizing that it needed to optimize its soil analysis process, Agrosavia sought a LIMS that could significantly streamline its workflows to provide farmers with the necessary soil data in a far shorter time frame.
Accelerating decision-making using LIMS for soil analysis
In response to these challenges, Agrosavia began an initiativeto optimize the soil analysis process using a LIMS,which was jointly financed by the government of Colombia along with the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicaciones). The LIMS was implemented in Agrosavia’s main sites in Bogota and Tibaitata, where existing laboratory instruments could be easily integrated into the analysis workstream. Project managers quickly assimilated workstream processes during the implementation period and were subsequently able to assist with training other users.
The LIMS streamlined the soil analysis workflow for Agrosavia by automating data collection, analysis, result review and report creation. Improvements in efficiency reduced the analysis process time from hours to minutes, and with 15,000 samples being analyzed annually, this significantly shortened review time and increased productivity.
The overall approval and acceptance of the LIMS led to the teamrapidly adaptingtheir soil analysis workflow. This was largely due to the way in which the LIMS manages information, with a single standardized data repository, and the inclusion of a web-based portal for farmers to view results. Using the portal, farmers can register their samples by scanning a QR code; they are subsequently notified when the samples are received by the laboratory, allowing them to track their samples through to analysis and report generation. This portal, which can be accessed through mobile devices, has improved the traceability of soil sample data, allowing users to track it step-by-step in real-time. Most importantly, the LIMS has transformed how quickly farmers can act upon the soil sample information.
A flexible data management solution to support future growth
When considering the suitability of a LIMS that would transform current operations, Agrosavia needed a future-proofed option that could be implemented in other areas of their agricultural research. Therefore, in addition to streamlining its soil analysis processes, it implemented a flexible solution that would allow future expansion into other laboratories. Agrosavia’s enterprise includes one of the largest genetics laboratories in Latin America, and the company plans to implement the LIMS in this facility and its milk analysis laboratory to further increase efficiencies across the organization.
Agrosavia’s workflows were further improved by connecting the LIMS with other applications and enterprise systems, including artificial intelligence and business intelligence tools, facilitating the execution of necessary business tasks, such as creating quotes and submitting declarations of work.
In short, LIMS integration has allowed Agrosavia to expand and optimize its services, help more farmers get the insights they need to optimize their crops faster, and provide an ideal platform for future expansion into other enterprises.
Agrosavia recognized that efficiency improvements to its soil analysis and reporting methods would benefit farmers. In response, it implemented a LIMS with a user-friendly portal that significantly streamlined its soil analysis workflow, accelerated the testing of soil samples and the delivery of results to farmers. With the capability to integrate into Agrosavia’s other laboratories and its interoperability with other business tools, LIMS will enable optimization of Agrosavia’s services across its entire enterprise in the future.