Editor’s note: Veris Technologies’ Eric Lund is one of the recipients of the 2020 PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence. Here he shares how he got started in precision and helped pioneer a solution for soil sensing.
Legacy Award Recipient | 2020 PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence
In the mid-1990s, as farmers began using GPS technology to apply different rates of crop inputs across their fields, they faced a problem: Where exactly did the soil change so the right rate would be applied in the right place?
Eric Lund not only recognized this challenge but with his team at his new company, Veris Technologies, pioneered a solution for soil sensing that would transform agriculture.
“Yield monitors were just coming out and there was a lot of interesting activity in precision ag at the time, especially in understanding what was causing those variations in yield, which is usually the soil,” he tells PrecisionAg.
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Lund’s was the world’s first on-the-go soil sensor, the Veris 3100, to measure electrical conductivity (EC), which is highly correlated with a soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients. The sensor has become a key enabler for management zone-based precision ag, and Lund has served the industry as a true global evangelist for this approach since founding Veris in Salina, KS, in 1996.
Because this technology was newly adapted for agriculture, he chose to work closely with the research community to identify how data collected by these sensors would best benefit farmers. He has continued this connection with university, government, and private research institutes by co-authoring and contributing research to multiple peer-reviewed journals and presenting at international agronomy, soil science and proximal soil sensor conferences.
Exemplifying the principles of agronomic stewardship, Veris and practitioners of management zone-based methodology have saved countless millions of tons of fertilizers.
“From that beginning on through today, we’ve been impressed with Eric’s ability to bridge between research and practice, first with EC and then with other sensing technologies and software systems,” two of Lund’s mentors, Ken Sudduth, Ag Engineer with USDA-ARS, and Newell Kitchen, Soil Scientist with USDA-ARS tell PrecisionAg. “Collaborations with Eric and Veris have enhanced our research and provided significant contributions to the science and applications of proximal soil sensing,”
Lund, who grew up on a farm in Kansas, named the company Veris after the Latin word for “truth.” The sensors reveal the truth about the soil, but he also believes honesty and reliability has been part of their success over the past 25 years.
This integrity can also be seen in the software platform he and the team at Veris built. Through their FieldFusion mapping portal, Veris has emphasized quality control and the importance of accurate data with a team member conducting a visual and analytical review of each field submitted from around the world. Today this cloud-based repository contains more than 1 million acres of soil mapping data.
In addition to helping broadacre farmers, he has also looked to harness soil sensing to benefit smallholder farmers in developing countries. He has taken multiple trips to work with farmers in Kenya, Guatemala, and India to develop solutions to the unique problems these producers face in challenging conditions with tight margins and limited resources.
Another key mentor, Dr. Viacheslav “Slava” Adamchuk, Professor and Chair, Bioresource Engineering Department, McGill University, says, “I have collaborated with Eric for over 20 years and would concur that his passion for new technologies in soil sensing has made a significant impact in adoption of precision agriculture in general and in establishment of proximal soil sensing industry in particular. An array of innovative sensor solutions from Veris Technologies are in use by researchers and practitioners in many countries across five continents.”
Despite all the challenges facing agriculture in 2020, none of them take away from Lund’s sense of optimism about the future.
“Over the course of time we’ve continued to develop new sensors, including a couple we’ve just introduced in the last year or so for soil moisture and temperature sensing for on-the-go decisions for tillage and planting. Certainly, we have things we have in the works for new sensor developments.”
He adds, “I’m glad to see younger, more technology hungry farmers coming back. Farm size is growing which on one hand is a concern, but I also think holds a lot of promise, because there can be a lot of improvements when you have the scale to made to bring agronomists on and invest in technology.”