Soil health has taken center stage in conversations about agricultural sustainability and how regenerative agricultural practices can benefit both the environment and a farmer’s bottom line. New technologies and data tools are allowing farmers to understand and monitor the health of their soils better than ever before. They are also opening the door for farmers to be rewarded for sequestering carbon back into their soils.
Mitchell Hora grew up on his family’s seventh generation farm in southeastern Iowa, where soil health was always a priority. While a student at Iowa State University, he began looking for opportunities to better measure and develop recommendations for improving soil health on his family’s farm and for other farms.
Supporting farmers’ economic, sustainability needs
In the fall of 2015, Hora started Continuum Ag as an agricultural consulting company focused on supporting farmers with services such as soil sampling and fertility recommendations. However, Hora found that traditional grid sampling wasn’t enough to measure the soil health components that were key on farms practicing no till, cover crops and other practices. As traditional agronomic consulting typically addresses only chemical soil components, Continuum Ag has differentiated itself by working with growers that take a more holistic approach and recognize that the physical and biological aspects of soil must be addressed as well.
“Our number one priority is increasing the level of economic resilience and environmental sustainability of farmers,” said Hora. “In turn, if family farms are able to thrive, our rural communities are stronger.”
Technology drives new soil health innovation
The company’s TopSoil tool provides a common language for the soil health conversation, providing a web-based tool to farmers to make data-backed decisions. The Top Soil Network is a global network of leading soil consultants, ag companies and farmers that have access to the company’s data analytics platforms. The network has farmers or companies in 38 states and 15 countries.
Continuum Ag’s soil health-focused RightWay program replaces traditional grid sampling with an up-to-date detailed analysis that improves on-farm fertility management. Utilizing thorough zone analysis, they spatially evaluate the field, then go to the farm to collect soil samples. Continuum Ag has teamed up with the world’s leading labs and soil scientists to gather this comprehensive information.
The company’s Iowa location not only provides access to progressive farmers, it has also provided opportunities for the startup company to raise funds and share their story. In 2019, Continuum Ag was named “Best of Show” among more than 150 participants in the Iowa State University pitching competition at the Iowa State Fair. In November 2020, the company received an initial investment from the Ag Startup Engine and Ag Ventures Alliance.
Published September 2021.