DASH project looks to connect carbon credits and soil at the farm level using artificial intelligence

Researchers have been collecting soil health data across the Prairies for almost a century. In that time we have learned a lot about agricultural best management practices (BMPs), the environment, and the ground beneath our feet. In all of this research we have, and continue to, accumulate an abundance of data, the majority of it currently inaccessible to the broader research community, agronomists, or producers.

Dr. Derek MacKenzie, associate professor of soil plant relations with the University of Alberta,  has spent the last three years working on the first phase of a project intended to gather and amalgamate this data.

In this interview, MacKenzie says that one of the goals of DASH, the Database for Alberta Soil Health, is to produce a database that would allow researchers on the backend to aggregate soil health, carbon sequestration, and greenhouse gas emission data from around the province for reporting purposes and to enhance agronomic BMPs. (more below)

Agronomists and producers would have access to the frontend of the database, where they could upload farm soil testing data. The program would then be able to output soil health and management prescriptions for the farm.

Eventually, MacKenzie says, he would like to see the database use artificial intelligence to output carbon sequestration values for individual farms, allowing producers to access this carbon information and be paid through a carbon credit system for the management practices they have implemented.

Other industries are already employing the power of data science and machine learning for better management, MacKenzie says, “without soil science humans would be naked, hungry, thirsty and homeless. We need to bring soil science into the 21st century with big data.”

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