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Sentek and the University of South Australia teamed up to develop a soil in-situ nitrate profiling sensor.

Challenge

Sentek Technologies, established in 1991, is an Adelaide based company that developed the concept of continuous soil moisture and salinity monitoring of the entire soil profile. The company exports to over 80 countries and has thousands of clients, growers of over 100 crop types.

Sentek and the University of South Australia teamed up to develop a soil in-situ nitrate profiling sensor.

Sentek Pty Ltd has an established collaboration with the University of South Australia (UniSA), specifically with Prof. Drew Evans and his team from the Coatings Group, Future Industries Institute to develop a soil in-situ nitrate profiling sensor.

Sentek has collaborated with Prof. Evans’ group with funding support from an Entrepreneurs’ Programme Innovation Connections grant to investigate the interaction of the conducting polymer PEDOT, coated on Sentek’s proprietary sensors, and nitrates contained in agricultural soil. In this project the chief investigator was early-career researcher Dr Sam Rudd who has a PhD in Materials Engineering. Sentek was keen to build on this research and its translation to a commercially available product.

Solution

This Fellowship will see Dr Sam Rudd, gain more exposure to end-use cases. This STEM+ Business program will support him to spend more time on the industry side away from pure research of the technology’s application. Through applied studies he will develop a new understanding of how the macronutrient nitrate is taken up and released by PEDOT; how the sensor detects the changes; how sensor output can be transformed into a single number representative of the nitrate concentration in the water and the stability and robustness of the PEDOT.

Results

Over the initial 6 months of the project Dr Rudd spent four days a week at Sentek where he has been able to engage with and learn from a broad section of the company’s staff. Sam has also attended regular meetings about the company’s strategy and market focus allowing him to develop a keen understanding of how his research can be directed for the best market impact. Sam is actively working on prototype devices that can be evaluated in the field and as the project progresses will have the opportunity to publish discoveries in high-impact journals.

The SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Business project has assisted us greatly with a specialised STEM professional, Dr Rudd, to develop a new cutting-edge technology for commercial use in agriculture.

Peter Buss, Manager of R&D Agronomy, Sentek Technologies

The SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Business Fellowship helped me to be more directly involved with my industry partner towards hopefully being an independent researcher.

— Dr Sam Rudd, SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Fellow

This program is supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).

For further information and to apply, please get in touch with our dedicated STEM+ Business Manager.

Mr Jason Barkla

SME Business Manager (STEM+ Business) (SERVICES)

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