High capacity soil sampling adds accuracy and economy

The Falcon soil sampler’s carousel holds 12 boxes or bags and can label and geo-locate these for year to year repeatability. A Windows touch screen computer runs the system and feeds data and video to the operator in the cab. A built-in cabinet holds replacement carousels and soil samples. The soil sampler was a hit at the AG Connect Expo during New Orleans’ Commodity Classic in March. The first unit to reach the market is working in eastern Montana this spring.  |  Michael Raine photo

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Soil sampling on-the-go had only been conquered by one company before this season. However this spring that changed as a new player entered the market.

With nearly a decade of development and marketing, Agrobotics’ Autoprobe has been the leader in high throughput, precision soil sampling. But there’s a new dirt slinger in town.

The Falcon 5000 is an automated soil sampler developed by North Carolina farmer Allan Baucom. The producer wanted his own high capacity soil sampler that could take a high frequency, year-after-year repeatable soil sample without constant stopping and starting of equipment.

“We needed to be able to improve our sampling times. Farmers need to get this things done quickly and with little fuss,” he said.

The farmer wanted it tough and able to make high quality samples that a producer could use to get an accurate picture of a field.

Producing soil cores every 15 feet, the Falcon soil sampler drops the cores directly into its stainless steel drum and mixes them, all the while being towed by a pickup or small tractor.

The ground driven sampler is monitored on a laptop from the operator’s cab via a wireless connection. Core depths are between 4 and 8.5 inches, depending on the needs of the operator. A remote video camera feeding the laptop provides a view of the operations happening out-back, while the operator drives forward along a GPS-guided path.

Field speeds run from eight to 12 miles per hour and the machine can transport at normal highway travel rates.

The Falcon had made earlier debuts in 2014 and 2015, but was subject to some refinement prior to reaching the market, with the first one being sold to an eastern Montana producer this spring.

The ground driven, 650 pound, five foot diameter drum punches cores with a tapered tubes that extend from its radius. Replaceable tips screw on and off the tubes.

“Even heavy stainless steel (tips) can be no match for some rocks,” said Judson Jerome of the company while displaying the unit during Ag Expo at the annual Commodity Classic show in New Orleans. The machine drew steady crowds of producers.

“We are aiming this a larger farmers, agronomists, co-ops and consultants,” he said.

Depending on the number of samples desired, from the dirt collected every 15 feet, a capture trough extends into the centre of the open drum and removes the blended samples, streaming these into a box or bag mounted on a carousel that holds and labels the containers, keying them to a geo-referenced site.

A stiff, rotating brush cleans the sampler as it rotates.

Mounted on the sampler’s trailer is a Windows based, touch screen computer that handles the operations and feeding the laptop in the tow vehicle’s cab. A dust-proof metal cabinet contains replacement carousels, containers and tips.

Agronomist Harold Reetz is an agronomist with a long history in site-specific agriculture and has used the machine and consulted on its development.

“Mainly it removes human error from the process. That, and increasing the number of cores per sample, mean farmers get a more representative sample.

“Any time you do that and can automate these processes it improves your ability to measure what you’ve got in the soil,” he said.

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