Case study

How Sentinel Fertigation Uses Leaf to Optimize Nitrogen Applications

Sentinel Fertigation joins Leaf for Startups to launch development of data-driven fertigation recommendations.



     This is part 1 of a 3-part series featuring Sentinel Fertigation, a Leaf for Startups company. Leaf for Startups provides an opportunity for early stage companies to receive API credits and Leaf resources to help in scaling their solutions.

We sat down with Jackson Stansell, CEO & Founder of Sentinel Fertigation, for a discussion on his motivation for joining Leaf for Startups, how the Leaf API integration is kicking off, and what he’s excited about building. 

 “My initial drive to reach out to Leaf was to find a solution to connect field boundaries. But, I see what Leaf is providing from a data connectivity standpoint, across different providers, being a really fundamental need for what we do. Those API connections will be incredibly important to our product, N-Time Fertigation Management System, long-term. 
- Jackson Stansell, CEO & Founder of Sentinel Fertigation

Objective:

     Build N-Time, a web-based application that delivers real-time, imagery-based fertigation recommendations directly to farmers and their trusted advisors throughout the growing season for improved profit and sustainability. 

“In a nutshell, what Sentinel Fertigation does is turn imagery into fertilizer application timing decisions for farmers.These are designed to optimize nitrogen fertilizer applications with crop need to reduce excessive nitrogen fertilizer applications, ultimately benefiting both the environment and the farmer,” shared Jackson.

Challenge:

  • Lack of connectivity to farmer-approved data, specifically accurate field boundaries
  • Need for additional funding and API connection expertise as Sentinel Fertigation is building and growing

     “Field boundaries, as simple as they sound, are actually quite challenging to get. And it’s quite challenging to get accurate field boundaries and accurate field names across all of your different systems that you have in place,” explained Jackson.

Strategy:

  • Join Leaf for Startups to assist in additional financial and development resources
  • Use Leaf API to first connect field boundaries and then imagery and machine data
“I was very interested in the API connectivity with Leaf. It’s like a Plaid for agriculture, and I was very intrigued by that concept.” 

- Jackson Stansell, CEO & Founder of Sentinel Fertigation

Getting Started:

     When he started as a graduate student at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in 2019, Jackson discovered the value of fertigation for farmers managing irrigated crop production systems. Working with growers in on-farm research trials focused on improving fertigation decisions using data, he realized the potential to build a cutting edge tool that could deliver weekly, in-season, targeted fertigation recommendations. 

Jackson stressed, “We're really seeking to make fertigation decisions as straightforward and easy to understand as possible. The recommendations we developed are essentially coming in binary format, either you need to apply fertilizer or you don't need to apply fertilizer.”

     So far, the team has developed a crop nitrogen sufficiency status that displays like a stoplight. Green signifies you have sufficient nitrogen. Yellow points out that you might be nitrogen deficient within the week. And red signals you're deficient right now so you better apply fertilizer as soon as possible. With their focus on the fertigation market to begin with, Jackson emphasized, “we're working to provide farmers with application instructions to make the process as simple as possible.” 

Joining Leaf for Startups

     To help bring this product to market, Sentinel Fertigation signed up for the Leaf for Startups program and began the integration process. Jackson shared, “the kickoff process with Leaf has been great. There's a ton of quality documentation, which I think is one of the best things about the Leaf platform so far.” 

      Jackson understands that  trying to forge an API with a company that is either new to APIs or  doesn't have great documentation can be a giant pain. As he detailed, with Leaf, you have your Jupyter notebooks, and plenty of documentation around how things should work. And, not only do you have the documentation about the technical specifics, but you also have the context behind the functionalities that are available so that you understand the overall paradigm and how they're being approached, which is helpful.”  

     As Sentinel Fertigation began implementing, the Leaf Customer Success and Customer Support teams worked to ensure questions were answered. 

     “The Leaf team has been super responsive. We've had the availability for weekly check-ins if we need them, which I think has been huge. And it really seems like Leaf has done a good job of putting together a team that has a lot of agricultural experience. They understand your use cases and the specifics of Ag and geospatial data. So that's been a really nice benefit as well.”
- Jackson Stansell, CEO & Founder of Sentinel Fertigation

Building for the Future

     Over the summer Jackson and his team will be focusing on initial integrations with John Deere, Planet and a few other data providers. Specifically, working to establish indicator blocks in the field prior to building analytics so that they can effectively interpret imagery and isolate nitrogen stress. With this, the goal is to help farmers be proactive in responding to any nitrogen stress. 

     What does the future have in store? Jackson is passionate about traceability and transparency connected to the food supply chain and believes it’s important that Sentinel Fertigation plays a role. 

“I think there's a tremendous opportunity for Leaf and data connectivity to play a major role within the traceability and sustainability side of agriculture. I really see Sentinel Fertigation long-term getting to a point where we can provide validation data of sustainable fertilizer application practices, across multiple different types of machinery in  one single platform. And I think Leaf is going to help us get there.”

Jackson Stansell, CEO & Founder of Sentinel Fertigation

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