Though CropX’s soil moisture measuring sensors are prominently displayed as the main product on the company’s homepage, CropX CEO Tomer Tzach’s ambitions are much bigger. “We want to be the Nest of agriculture,” Tzach told me, referring to the smart home thermostat company that Google bought for $3.2 billion in 2014.
Just as Nest thermostats provided Google with valuable data, CropX sensors are a gateway for valuable agricultural insights.
Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, CropX makes sensors that farmers can literally screw into the ground, making for super easy self-installation. According to Tzach, the screw-like shape of CropX actually makes their product better than other soil sensors on the market. The sensors are embedded along the “threads” protruding from the shaft of the device embedded in the soil. Because of this placement, water can pass through the sensor. Tzach says other sensors are just tubes that go straight into the ground, and the narrower footprint creates a less accurate reading.
On average, one CropX sensor can cover 40 acres, and using topographic and USDA data, the company can tell a farmer the optimal spots to plant their sensors. Once installed, each sensor communicates via cellular networks directly with the CropX software in the cloud, which analyzes the sensor’s readings. Farmers download a smartphone app and receive notifications about field conditions so they can maintain optimal soil moisture levels.
The sensors also measure temperature and electroconductivity in the soil to determine salinity levels, which can help farmers with nutrient management and fertilizer application.
The result of all this monitoring, according to CropX, is healthier crops and improved yields for farms.
Sensors cost from $600 to $899 apiece and there is a $275 yearly subscription per sensor. Farmers own their own data, and anything CropX learns is anonymous and on an aggregate basis. But it’s these data insights that are the real play for CropX. Tzach wouldn’t go into specifics but said that eventually, the company will be able to “provide significant data to other industries and geographies.”
Perhaps pointing to one such industry, just yesterday it was announced that ICL, a global fertilizer company, made an investment in and formed a strategic partnership with CropX. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
CropX does have some competition; there are quite a few sensors options and data generating platforms currently available to farmers. Teralytic‘s soil sensors help farmers manage fertilizer use (and monitor moisture), and Arable‘s Mark packs in 40 sensors to monitor moisture, ambient temperatures and more.
This raises the question, how many sensors and accompanying dashboards does a farmer need–or want? Pretty soon we’ll get the data on that.