Frequently Asked Questions

The Business

What is the vision behind SIF?

SIF was created with the goal of providing better, more affordable, and more usable data about soil and soil health. Our data and data platform are being designed to assist analysis and decision-making in the fields of agriculture, climate change, carbon assessment and valuation, and land value assessment.

Why is SIF a public-benefit corporation (PBC)?

A public-benefit corporation is a type of for-profit corporate entity that allows and supports the inclusion of positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals. Given that SIF hopes to help impact several of those areas it feels like the best legal structure for our company.

Who are the Founders of SIF?

SIF was founded in late 2022 by three partners, each with vast experience in soil, climate, technology and food. Each of the founders, listed below, bring a unique blend of experience to the mission and vision for SIF. Please see our About pages for Co-Founder Bios.

Where is SIF based?

SIF is a Delaware registered public-benefit corporation with its main offices in St. Louis, Missouri and team members in multiple locations.

What does SIF want to achieve?

SIF has already developed unique electrochemical soil health sensors built to enable – for the first time – auditable, scalable soil data. Our mission is to help farmers, companies and governments accelerate impact on climate change and food security by providing critical measurements, in real-time, in an affordable and exceptionally accurate manner. SIF also aims to create much needed global context for all stakeholders with our Soil Health Data Platform. An additional key goal of SIF is to enable better measurement of environmental services, and payments to those– like farmers– who are creating and/or maintaining those services.

SIF’s Unique Sensor Technology

What type of sensor technology is being used by SIF and why?

SIF  was created on the belief that soil itself is living tissue, not an inert carbon sink. This led us to develop technology based on electrochemical signals that occur in living things. As a result SIF has been able to measure soil carbon and other key soil health parameters in real-time. The highly-sensitive and stable sensors are similar to those that have been used in measuring human health in real-time over the last 10+ years.

SIF’s electrochemical soil sensors were developed by one of the leading biomedical sensor laboratories in the world at the University of Texas at Dallas. The scientists at UT Dallas have already published a peer-reviewed paper on the use of electrochemical sensors to measure soil health.

What is the current stage of development of the SIF sensor technology?

SIF sensors are presently in the prototype phase, and have already been successfully tested in-lab and in-field with 3rd party validation on the results. Our in-ground devices are designed to offer a wide array of soil health measurements including Total Soil Carbon, Soil Organic Matter, Carbonaceous Soil Minerals, pH, Soil Hydration State and Volumetric Bulk Density to make sure we can supply a holistic picture of soil health on a global scale.

What is the accuracy of SIF’s sensors?

SIF sensors currently have accuracy levels of over 95% against in-lab gold standard methods for the different parameters we are measuring. This level of accuracy is extraordinary for an in-field technology in multiple soil types and climates. SIF has seen similar accuracy both in-lab and in-field in our initial trials.

Why are SIF’s sensors different to what is currently available?

SIF sensors measure ionic substances in the soil directly rather than current in-field methods that rely on third-party calibration and modeling techniques, which inherently reduce their accuracy levels. Below is a brief explanation of different approaches to gathering soil information:

Laboratories: Gold standard methods involve digging up a soil core (usually a maximum once or twice a year), sending that core to a laboratory and testing the soil using expensive equipment. This does not lend itself to auditability or scalability and only supplies a single time point measurement, which is not an accurate average over a period of time. There is also a lack of standardization between laboratories.

Infrared and Gamma: Infrared and Gamma have shown promise as indirect measurement methods to be used in the laboratory but this type of technology is much less accurate when you take it out of the laboratory into the field with moisture, humidity and other climatic conditions affecting results. Technicians are also required for taking the measurements and calibrating the results off-site, which makes this technology difficult to scale. These methods again only enable single point-in-time measurements, leaving major question marks against the auditability of the data they provide.

Satellites: Satellites show promise for creating better indirect modeling (spatial maps) of soil health but they also have major limitations as they currently lack accuracy and can only measure a maximum of 20 cm below the soil when there is no ground cover and even less in most conditions. Satellite data’s lack of accuracy means the scalability and auditability of the data is in question.

SIF Sensors: Because SIF sensors measure the ionic substances in the soil directly they are remarkably accurate against the gold standard in-lab and in-field, give real-time data over a long period of time and don’t need technicians to install them. SIF is this set to provide improvements in auditable, affordable, holistic and scalable soil health data.

How will the sensors be deployed in the field?

SIF sensors will not require third-parties to be involved in their installation or the sensor measurements. Farmers, for instance, will be able to install them on their own using a soil auger.

SIF sensors are being developed to stay in the soil for over 2 years and to transmit data directly to the SIF data cloud on a regular basis (e.g. every day for soil hydration and bulk density and two times a week for soil carbon pools and pH).

How many sensors will you need per acre?

Based on current modeling techniques it looks like on relatively flat land we will need 1 probe every 2-3 acres in horticulture, 10-20 acres in broadacre and 50-100 acres in grassland. This will change in different environments and in locations with more undulating land.

SIF is set to develop new short-term use sensors to enable comprehensive spatial modeling on farm machinery and in a hand-held form. We also aim to use this technology to improve in-lab measurement systems.

How will the sensor data reach the end user?

SIF will provide a unique data service that packages data differently for different stakeholders and adds vital context to the raw sensor data, which will enable farmers and all other stakeholders to better understand, use and audit soil health data on a farm, local, regional and international level.

The SIF Data Platform

What is the aim of the SIF data platform?

The SIF data platform aims to provide much needed context to the world of soil carbon and soil health, as well as providing auditable packaged data to the multiple stakeholders who will benefit from having contextual, affordable and accurate soil health data on a farm, local, regional and global scale. 

Working to develop the data platform with global agricultural leader Texas A&M, SIF aims to provide farmers and other stakeholders with average and attainable soil health data that takes into account climatic and agronomic data. Raw data is not enough for CPGs, carbon markets, governments and other stakeholders to get deeply involved in the soil health revolution, including by paying farmers to increase their soil carbon levels and overall soil health - they need contextual and auditable data and SIF intends to supply it.

Who will own the data?

Farmers will own their own personal and farm data. SIF will encourage them to share this data with third-parties so they can receive environmental service payments from multiple sources. SIF will own anonymized farm and other land data to enable the building of the global platform.

How much will the data and use of the platform cost?

SIF aims to supply access to the SIF data platform for free to the vast majority of farmers. We may ask for a specific payment / subscription fee from very large landowners. Cost models are currently in development for CPGs, government subsidy systems, carbon markets, climate efforts and land valuations.