Annual Meeting 2022: Sentinel Fertigation

Video Transcript:

All right. Let's see. See if we got this whole thing working here. All right. Awesome. So as Rich mentioned, I'm Jackson Stansell. I just founded Sentinel Fertigation to commercialize some of the work that we've been doing at UNL in cooperation with Rich. His operation over the past three years, this was some small plot work that started with Brian Cranky. Brian Cranky ended up extending it out into the on-farm realm. When I came here as a master student back in 2019, started taking the project over. We've seen some pretty good results as Rich mentioned. So what I'm going to talk about tonight is those research and results. What exactly our fertigation management framework is we call it Sensor-Based Fertigation. I'll get into why we call it that, go through some On-Farm Research Results, how that On-Farm Research was set up some of those research results.

And then talk about how we're going about commercializing through Sentinel Fertigation, the company development, the web app, how we're going to achieve success. And finally, I'll just wrap up before I get really into the presentation. What we heard tonight is we've heard uncertainty in markets. You don't really know exactly what they're going to do. We've heard high input prices, we've heard hedge against risk with insurance and we've also heard John Ferguson talk about what the actual input cause are that farmers are dealing with. So that's really what hopefully this presentation will bring all that together and talk about something that we may be able to control a little bit here within our crop production year. So to start off with fertigation about 25% of our CP corn acres are fertigated. We all know if you're fertigating you know the benefits.

There are multiple time where applications that can be made. There's minimal labor requirements for the most part, especially relative to riding around in a sprayer for hours on end to side dress nitrogen in season. You get immediate incorporation with the water and you have minimal compaction because you have less field traffic. Those wheels are already going around the field anyway, as those are the same areas that are going to get compacted. Traditionally fertigation has been managed with intuition experience, some of the university recommendations out there. You can also use crop visual appearance. So if the corn's looking a little bit yellow, you might as well get some fertilizer on or alignment with the irrigation needs. As John mentioned, tissue sampling is starting to become something that people are using for fortigation out there. I've talked to some growers that are starting to do that issue there.

That has does become somewhat labor intensive, but the bottom line here is that a lot of these are guesses about what is right. And we don't really have quantitative metrics besides maybe the tissue sampling to get at what we actually need to do as far as our fertigation goes. So getting into some of our research and results now, I want to talk about what Sensor-Based Fertigation is. So you'll see me use this abbreviation SPF throughout this presentation. But basically what it is, it's a data-driven framework for managing fertigation. The primary data that we use is imagery data that's captured via satellites of at scale, we've been using UAVs the past three years. Satellite data is ultimately where this is going, because we're going to have daily red edge satellite imagery over the state of Nebraska provided this year. And it's going to be provided at a fairly reasonable cost.

And that cost is only going to go down as the technology continues to improve and more satellites in our orbit. We also have soil spatial variability data that tells us how the field is going to respond in different areas in terms of maximum productivity. And so that helps us delineate where we need to look in terms of need for nitrogen. Ultimately, what we're doing is we're using imagery to inform the need for and timing of fertigation events throughout the growing season. And so what we're doing is delivering weekly fertigation recommendations. These recommendations are binary. They're either you need to fertigate this week, or you don't need to fertigate this week. It's that simple, and that can be done on a full field basis. Or if you have variable rate technology, it can be done on individual sectors within that field to manage for some of the variability that may be out there.

Last part here is, it's designed to work for multiple scenarios. So like I just mentioned, if you have uniform fields and variable fields, because this is timing oriented and not exactly variable rate oriented, all we're worrying about is that we're getting nitrogen on the crop at the time that it needs it the most. Secondly, it can work for both uniform rate applications and variable rate applications.

So in our on-farm research trials, we worked with a total of eight growers, 17 total field years, which just means we had 17 total trials. And we did this over the course of three years. Now of these trials, 14 went to completion to where we could actually publish them within the on-farm research book. And that left us with seven total growers that we actually completed studies with. The one that we didn't actually complete a study with is out here in Sutherland that study failed due to some machinery issues that were four hours away from campus. So why are we scaling SPF? So from these trials, that we had seven of those 14 trials that went to completion that compared with what we call RAP treatment with the best grower management. What that RAP treatment is essentially using the recommendations that come out of this system for every single fertigation application that is made over the course of the growing season.

So from V6 to R3, any fertigation that goes on that crop, was using this recommendation. We compared that versus grower's best management practices on their fields. What we found when analyzing with December 22 corn futures, which I believe were at 558 when I ran this analysis. And current 32% UAN prices which were $1.6 Per pound, when I ran this analysis. What we're looking at in terms of increased profitability from average nitrogen savings is $27.91 per acre, which is pretty significant. Now, if you run this analysis at multiple different numbers, for example, in the brochures that are back here, that I'll pass out after this, if you run it at say $0.80 per pound, which is maybe more of an average that we might see over the next few months here, you're going to be looking at about $16.85 per acre in terms of nitrogen savings from these recommendations.

It's pretty significant. If you get down as low as four, if you start looking at 0.30 per pound nitrogen, which nitrogen prices are going to dictate a lot of this. Overall, what we saw is that 100% of farmers that we ran these trials with increased their nitrogen fertilizer, use efficiency using these recommendations. There was an average of a 25% increase in yield per pound of applied nitrogen fertilizer and an average of 43 pounds per acre of nitrogen savings. Now, whether it says that we're just applying too much nitrogen fertilizer, or we're actually just applying it better, with this recommendation, I don't necessarily know, but this is what's coming out of the data here. So milestones, this is looking at how the company has developed so far. We formed back in September, we were accepted into the combine on incubator program, which is facilitating startup development down in Lincoln, providing some business support.

We got $100,000 from the Nebraska department of economic development to basically transfer this from a desktop application that I built as a master student into a web application that can actually be used. We're now building out that web application with Agilx, which is software firm based in Lincoln. And right now we're in the process of onboarding and rolled acres for 2022. Our target here is to get to somewhere close to 20,000 acres in the system for 2022. That's how much imagery I'm going to contract with planet for. And so that's what we're start we're aiming to hit. Today I'm giving this presentation, we're going to execute our imagery contracts here in March. I have implementation specialist candidate right now. It looks like we're going to be able to get onboard sometime in early April, which is going to be awesome to support all of our growers this year. We're going to finish up the web application in may and launch into our 20,000 acres enrolled during the growing season with successful completion of the program here in August.

So to talk about N-TIME FMS a little bit more; N-Time fertigation management system, as a web application software that delivers these image based fertigation recommendations weekly throughout the growing season. Sentinel fertigation is responsible for sourcing the imagery that comes into the system. So we're not asking anybody to go out and fly their fields. We going to deal with all of that on our end, we're going to analyze those images without anybody, any user having to initiate that analysis and only deliver recommendations when the field needs fertigation. So you won't be bothered with incessant notifications. You're only really going to get a notification in your email if a field needs fertigation. The best part about this is it requires no additional hardware. So if you just have a regular John Blue injection pump, you've got a regular agri inject pump and you're fertigating without any VRI on your pivot, we don't care. We're not asking for any equipment upgrades. Could we potentially do a better job with variable rate? Sure. But at the end of the day, these recommendations are built to meet you where you are in terms of your actual fertigation hardware.

So again, we're going from imagery to analytics to recommendations. And this layer right here is what you would see. This picture right here is a PDF summary that is human readable. It would be provided with the correct injection rates to set your fertigation pump, too. If you want to adjust it to different irrigation settings, so on and so forth. But again, ultimately this is a yes or no recommendation for fertigation each week. And we're trying to make it basically stop light simple in terms of determining what that nitrogen status is. If it's red, you're deficient, if it's yellow, you've got an imminent deficiency and if you're green, you're not deficient, there's no need to fertigate.

So looking at our equipment and hardware requirements, you do have to have variable rate application capability for one application. This doesn't mean it has to be on the fertigation side. This just means any machinery on your farm, we need to have at least a little bit of a variable rate capability. The reason for this is we had to put indicator blocks in the field to make this work. I'll talk about those a little bit more in a minute. Other than that equipment wise just need to have standard chemigation equipment- power, pump and tank. If you've got those, you can make this work. There are four implementation steps to the program. There's site onboarding, which is both getting users into the system and also configuring fields within the system there's establishment application, which is this indicator block establishment that I just talked about. And this is done during an early season fertilizer application. There's monitoring and recommendation, which is just delivering those recommendations throughout the growing season. And at the end of the year, there's a performance review.

So to get into site onboarding, what goes on with this? This is done for every single irrigation system, core requirements are identification attributes. So grower field and crop. We have to put center coordinates for each of the irrigation systems that we're working with in there to be able to delineate those fields. We need the irrigation system length, and we need with and without the end gun on. Basically to be able to get the actual prescriptions right for the injection rates, and then a host of other information, fertigation management type uniform or variable, application implement size AB lines.

And then we'd also like to have a management zone layer, ideally to help us set up the field. And this is the heavy lift to the entire program is getting this stuff set up. The great thing about this is, it only ever has to be done one time for subsequent seasons. You never have to change any of this, or if you do, it's only going to change one number as you change something on your system. Some comparable processes used to this are setting up a field commander in excess or setting up a new field in SMS advance. If you've done either one of those two things

Establishment. So this is where we get our indicator blocks into the film. And I'm not sure why I didn't include a picture of these indicator blocks, but essentially what these are is we're putting in rate blocks in the field that have a high and a low nitrogen rate paired up with each other. And basically what these help us do is to calibrate our imagery to only nitrogen stress isolate that nitrogen is actually the factor that is causing any decrease within that vegetation index and the imagery. And we're localizing it to that specific location so we can assess different parts of the field and their need for fertilizer. The other thing that this gives us the capacity to do is we can actually predict what the need of the bulk area of the crop is. So because we have a certain rate within that rate block that is lower than the bulk area of the field.

We're actually going to see stress in that plot more quickly than we're going to see it in the rest of the field. And so if we do see stress in that plot, we know that we need to get on it, apply some fertilizer before the rest of the field shows deficiency. And that way we're able to preserve our yield potential and ultimately still reduce our fertilizer need by tracking what that need is going to be within the bulk area of the crop. The prescription for this establishment application to get those indicator blocks in the field is going to be provided by the N-Time Fertigation Management system. And preferably this occurs prior to the V6 growth stage in corn, some examples of how this can be executed can be injected with 32% UAN using the strip till rig, if you sidedress with broadcash Urea, we can do that as well with irrigation to follow, to get that incorporated.

If you do variable rate irrigation or fertigation, we can do that with 28-0-5. Really doesn't matter the product. If there's some way of getting a variable rate application done on your field, we can use it to get this establishment done. Finally, you need upload your as applied data after, except if it's irrigation or fertigation. There's really no as applied data coming out of that. So we're not going to require any as applied data upload to make sure that we get our blocks. This is the monitoring and recommendations cycles. What we get into next, after that establishment occurs. In this case in time, retrieves imagery from our provider throughout the growing season, V6-R3 N-Time analyzes that imagery and provides those analytics with our recommendation. As I mentioned earlier, there are three sufficiency statuses, either we're sufficient, which is green. We don't need a fertigate.

There's an eminent deficiency, fertigation would be recommended. And if it's deficient, you definitely need to fertigate. So those are our three different nitrogen sufficiency statuses. And then ultimately there are two recommendations that can come out of it, either fertigate or don't fertigate. We provide these recommendations weekly and provide an RX even for uniform applications. So this is basically just providing an injection rate for those uniform applications. Some example report summaries here, so if we're going from June 15th, which is maybe around the V7, V8 growth stage all the way through August 10th, what we might see is that in seven of those weeks, it's going to be sufficient. So we're not going to recommend a fertigation event, but in three different cases here. So June 22nd, maybe around V9, July 6th, maybe around V13, V 14. And then again on August 3rd, maybe around R2, we're going to have imminent deficiencies.

And so we're going to recommend fertigations. Each one of these fertigations would be recommended at a default of 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre. But ultimately this is what those report summaries would look like over the course of a growing season for an example field. And then finally, we get to the performance review at the end of the season, you can download the nitrogen log for the entire season. Ideally what's going to happen here is that we're going to have a grower, an advisor, which in this case would be MidPlains Ag, who's helping to set up the system here and then a Sentinel Implementation Special we'll sit down and discuss outcomes. So profitability, nitrogen use efficiency and the notes and observations throughout the growing season, what worked, what didn't work, what was uncomfortable, what was comfortable, what did we feel the system was providing us relative to what we typically do.

The next season, there's really no onboarding that's required for previously enrolled systems. As I mentioned, if you have a field, it can stay in with the same parameters. There's a subscription renewal one year from the start date. The only updates required, or if there's a new crop, we need to put that in and we need to make a new establishment application with new locations, just to make sure we're not going back over the top with the same indicator blocks year after year.

And then finally, if there are any parameters that need to be up updated, they can be. So lastly, I'd like to just recap some of the benefits and use cases. So beyond just saving on nitrogen fertilizer and producing more profitable outcomes, there's also an opportunity to improve management efficiency. So for example, if you're running pumps around a multiple different fields to try to fertigate every field during the course of a week, if you know the four out of the 10 fields that you really need to fertigate, well, it helps you to not have to run around at each one of those fields and put a pump on every single one of them.

So it helps with management efficiency and that standpoint. It can also help management efficiency from the standpoint of seeing, okay, which fields do I really need to go scout and verify that there is a nitrogen deficiency. If we can identify, there are a few fields out there that are showing a deficiency or eminent deficiency, let's go check those out. It can also facilitate nitrogen application reporting. So as John just mentioned, some of these NDS are starting to show the signs of wanting to regulate nitrogen fertilizer that may require nitrogen application reporting.

At some point, this system is going to be logged nitrogen applications throughout the growing season. And so it's going to provide a report that may be able to be validated with the NRD to show that you are using correct practices. It also limits your risk exposure to unfavorable weather events. So in some cases with fertigation, you do this naturally. But if you're really holding off on as much fertilizer as you can, until it's absolutely needed, if you've held off on 60 to 90 pounds of your fertilizer and you get a hail event at V7 or V8, well, all of a sudden you're sitting there in pretty good shape. Because you haven't put that fertilizer out there on your field. So you still have that retained on your end.

I also believe this can be integrated with regenerative practices to hedge against negative outcomes. We talked about the cover crops side of things a little bit earlier. If you planted cover crops on your field, you really don't know how much nitrogen those cover crops have internalized and potentially immobilized for the entirety of the growing season. So what we really want to do with this system using imagery, we can determine how much of that nitrogen is becoming available over the course of the growing season. If not a lot of it is becoming available, then we'll get some fertilizer out there via fertigation. If you are having some become available from those cover crops, the imagery will be able to detect that until you to hold off on fertigation. Because guess what, that cover crop is releasing some nitrogen that your crops need. This can also be the same for manure, or if you have biologicals out there. If you've got a biological out there that's sustaining your crop, let's check in and see how it's doing.

If it's not doing what it's supposed to do, let's get some fertilizer out there via the fertigation system. Last thing get valuable from variable rate fertigation technology. If you do have a variable rate fertigation pump, this actually gives you a use cause for. If you have variable rate fertigation, chances are you haven't been using it, or you haven't known exactly how to use it. But in this case, because we can actually break down the field into individual regions, deal with that variability and manage each one of those regions differently. With that timing, there's actually a use case now for variable rate fertigation. So finally let's get into what is the cost? So MidPlains Ag is going to be offering Sentinel Fertigations N-Time FMS for $9 an acre with configuration service and support provided.

This will go out to any growers that enroll through MidPlains Ag. If we look at grower savings propositions here, I just took 932 acres because as of last year, that was the average farm size in the state of Nebraska. If we look at $27.91 an acre, which take it or leave it, this is what I'm just running the analysis with here, you subtract $9 an acre off. You're still looking at $17,624 in net savings for a 932 acre operation. Even if you run that at the more, maybe palatable $16.85 per acre savings, that would be at $0.80 per pound of nitrogen fertilizer. You're still coming out ahead by 17, basically $7,316. So the savings is pretty compelling here for your operation. Some of our partners and suppliers we're working with agri-inject, we have a strategic partnership with agri-inject that is going to help us build out direct to machine communication to make this even easier to implement our prescriptions. Planet is going to be our satellite imagery provider.

And that's going to be basically backed up by farmflight in this first year. So to make sure that we have some redundancy. I'm going to contract with farmflight to make sure that all of our farmers are getting UAV imagery every week as well. We're going to have some redundancy in place. I don't want anybody getting screwed because we have poor imagery coming in from planet. So the bottom line is I'm working with investors to make sure we get this covered and make sure we do things right the first year round. So those are some of the providers we're working with. Lastly, I just want to talk about our vision before summarizing everything. Really our main vision is more profitable farm operations with reduced environmental impact that are empowered by the data driven fertigation recommendations that are delivered by N-Time FMS.

Eventually what we'd like to get to, is these trusted, which is a keyword closed-loop, autonomous, data-driven fertigation systems with N-Time FMS as a critical data enabler for this whole process. We want to make it as easy as a clickable button as long as a grower approves to get these prescriptions sent out, to make it as efficient as possible management wise to have success with fertigation. So just a summary here, Sensor-Based Fertigaion increases nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency. 96% is a conservative estimate when it's been implemented for every single recommendation. That number is 100%. Sensor-Based Fertigation has significant potential to improve profitability outcomes and facilitation of sensor-based fertigation via software is absolutely critical to the implementation. Because as you can tell, it's a pretty intensive process and without software, you're not going to be able to get it done. Commercialization wise N-Time FMS is offered commercially in 2022 and we're working with MidPlane Ag in the Elgin area to service and distribute N-Time FMS. So with that, I'll wrap up and open up the door for any questions.

Yeah. So here's Elgin Nebraska. So I saved all this stuff because I noticed how late we were getting and I could have gotten pretty deep into some results and talked about a lot of different stuff here. That would've been the extension side of things for this particular case study. This is on Rich's field here in Elgin. What we're looking at here is those implementations where we used N-Time FMS recommendations for every single fertigation application for the entire season, from V6-R3. What we saw in this field in 2020 is that we used 182 pounds of nitrogen to produce 262 bushels, an acre and you leave 0.69. We're looking at a marginal net return of $844.87 per acre. And that's calculated a corn price of three per bushel and a nitrogen cost of 0.40 per pound. And the way that is computed is literally just yield times corn price minus the total in rate times the nitrogen cost.

Okay. So that's how we're getting margin net return there. In 2021, we used 170 pounds of total nitrogen to produce 276 bushels per acre. It was a really good mineralization year. We got a little bit more out of the soil than what we typically do. And so we were able to use a little bit less using the imagery. NUE was 0.61 and marginal net return numbers were significantly higher than they were in 2020 based on a corn price of $5.20 per bushel. And we were looking at somewhere north of $1,370 per acre in terms of marginal net return.

This is very comparable what Rich's operation did with basically 235 pounds of fertilizer on his sectors out there. We also have another use case down here in Doniphan. This is a more of a... It's both silt loam and Sandy loam soils on this particular field. But this year in 2021, what we saw is that this particular farmer used 258 pounds to produce 241 bushels to the acre in yield with an NUE of 1.07. And then with our treatments, the wrap treatment, which was instituting our recommend for every single fertigation application throughout the course of the year, we used 170 pounds of nitrogen to produce 241 bushels to the acre and yield the exact same as what the grower used or produced. And we produced an NUE of 0.71, which is pounds of nitrogen, bushel of grain produced. So the profitability increase is pretty compelling and that's an analysis at $5.20 per bushel, nitrogen cost of 0.41 Per pound.

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