Wireless Soil Moisture Sensor Case Study – Financial and Ecological Benefits of Soil Data, by Grounds Manager Andy Richards
Managing sports turf in a school environment, has a whole extra set of influencing factors, that make maintenance decisions even more difficult. The ability to use intelligent solutions for maintaining optimal turf conditions regardless of limited budgets and increasing demands for sustainable maintenance has proved influential to a forward thinking turf professional, who wants to stay ahead of the game, when it comes to efficiencies and planning.
In this Case Study, Andy Richards, the Grounds Manager at the Haileybury School and a pioneer of data-driven turf maintenance, explains how wireless soil moisture sensors helped him keep Shrewsbury School’s grounds in tip-top shape.
Many grounds managers are now seeking new intelligent ways to balance their turf quality and maintenance costs while providing sportsmen of all disciplines, with safe and durable fields and uniform playability.
One of them is Andy Richards, the Grounds Manager at the stunning Haileybury School in Hertfordshire. With over 30 years of in-depth experience in the sports turf industry, he has held head groundsman positions at several renowned institutions – including the Royal Shrewsbury School, Birmingham City Football Club, and Christ College Brecon.
Wireless Soil Moisture Sensor Pioneer
Andy Richards is a pioneering practitioner of data-driven sports turf maintenance. Over the past few years, he has used wireless soil moisture sensors to extract accurate, real-time soil data from the root-zone to make fact-based and timely maintenance decisions – whether optimizing irrigation, timing inputs, or providing valuable data to bursars for funding of projects.
Andy started using Soil Scout’s underground wireless soil moisture sensors whilst heading the grounds team at the Royal Shrewsbury School. And is now looking to add the solution, at his current post at Haileybury School, he installed Soil Scout’s soil monitoring sensors across a mixture of differing sports pitches to gain the full data-driven turf maintenance leverage, again.
Wireless Soil Moisture Sensor Case Study
Eight Tips for Better Sports Turf Maintenance
In this case study, Andy Richards shares his view on underground soil monitoring benefits in sports turf maintenance from what he learned from the data gathered in his previous role in Shropshires capital town of Shrewsbury. We asked him eight questions. Read how Andy responded!
1. Reducing Water Consumption
Question: Have you seen a significant reduction in water consumption since you have been using Soil Scout?
AR – Water savings have not been my objective, but I have been able to use water more accurately and efficiently and apply irrigation more effectively at the right times.
2. Optimizing Soil Moisture
Question: Have you been able to lower or increase desired moisture with soil data?
AR – Most definitely, yes. Because by having sensors, we can monitor these extremely accurately, learn the optimum levels throughout the profile, and take action as and when required.
3. Planning Inputs
Question - Does soil monitoring help you gain more knowledge and understanding of the ideal soil conditions? How does that knowledge assist you in practice (e.g., planning for future timings of fertilizer applications)?
AR - Yes, it does, massively, in fact! By having this level of soil condition data available, I have gained extra knowledge in every aspect of my grasses and soils. It genuinely changed the way I looked at everything related to our pitches and grounds.
4. Avoiding Plant Diseases
Question - Has the soil data helped you to pre-warn on disease risk?
AR - It set me thinking from the outset about disease risk monitoring, and by studying the data in conjunction with data from my weather station, I was able to act accordingly with fungicide timings, which has been a real added bonus.
5. Increasing Working Efficiency
Question - Have you been able to reduce labor costs using wireless soil moisture sensors? Or allowing you more time to do other important tasks?
AR - I am not a user of handheld probes, so I didn't make substantial labor savings, but it definitely saved a lot of time and effort from physically going and viewing certain areas that I could access from the Soil Scout dashboard. However, I can see where significant labor savings could be made against the time used to operate handheld manual probes.
6. Saving Costs
Question - Have you made auditable recordings of data to save water usage and other input usages?
AR - Yes, 100%. Wireless soil moisture sensors have helped me make many extremely critical decisions on timings. For example: wasting fertilizer by applying them at the wrong temperatures and moistures would cost me around £2,000 per application. I was able to prevent this from happening thanks to the Soil Scout data.
Before having the underground soil data from the permanently buried sensors, I would apply fungicide based on the air temperature data, and effectively it would cost me £1,000 per pitch over six pitches.
When applying expensive products such as fertilizers and fungicides, it is crucial to get the application right. With Soil Scout data, I knew I was applying it at the most effective times by using it at the correct soil temperature instead - and guaranteeing a significantly improved effect from the products. Yearly savings were significant, and disease control was simplified.
7. Why Choose Soil Scout?
Question: Finally, would you recommend Soil Scout’s wireless soil moisture sensors to other sports turf managers and professionals?
AR – Yes, I can recommend Soil Scout. It helps in sports turf maintenance and development in various ways. For example, the data gained from Soil Scout was the single most crucial factor in the school Bursar's decision-making process when investing an extra £75,000 fund for improving drainage on two senior pitches. Soil Scout enabled me to prove the need and show consistently and accurately how and why this drainage was needed to enhance the pitches.
Question: Would you say you have found Soil Scout useful and informative when it comes to monitoring ever-increasing salinity levels?
AR - By looking back at historical data on salinity levels, I can now see how all management practices can influence something so important.
What’s Data-driven Sports Turf Maintenance?
Data-driven sports turf maintenance extracts valuable underground soil data (moisture, salinity, temperature). The data is available in real-time to enable turf managers to carry out high-precision, timely soil maintenance practices. The data-driven sports turf maintenance saves operational costs, reduces water consumption, and maintains optimal turf quality.
Download our whitepaper – Data-driven Sports Turf Maintenance – it gives sports turf professionals 10 Tips for optimized turf maintenance!