In the early 1990s, Peter Buss had the idea of building an instrument that could monitor soil moisture levels. With the help of electrical engineer Ric Gatto, in 1991, after about a year of testing and trials, a tool that could respond accurately to changes in soil moisture was developed, without being biased by other elements when measuring (Figure 1).
The next step was to handcraft eleven probes equipped with three sensors each, connected to data loggers for data recording. The first installations were made in fields planted with onions and potatoes, and as a result, the data interpretation and assistance process began at that time for farmers, who had to trust the new technology by decreasing or increasing the amount of water supplied to the crop.
It was at that time that farmers understood the importance of such a tool, helping Peter create the new company: Sentek Technologies.
In 1991, data transmission from the probe was done by fax machines, and only in 1993 fax machines were introduced as the forerunner of today's IrriMAX software (Figure 2) to provide solutions to two crucial issues for every farmer, namely when to irrigate and how much water to supply to the plant.
From that point on, Sentek gradually expanded the range of products it offered, making improvements to each according to the feedback from its dealer network, based on its experiences. This led to the creation of other devices, such as the Diviner in 1999, a handheld probe capable of taking ten moisture readings in two seconds, and Triscan sensors in 2004, to enable the measurement of salinity.
This was followed by IrriMAX live (Figure 3). It was 2013 and the software also became available on the Internet, so it could be accessed from any device with a connection.
The Drill&Drop probe, as we know it now, was first commercialized in 2014 (Figure 4). This was a new concept for the measuring instrument, with sensors placed inside the body of the probe, fully sealed and, among other things, deployable by a new validated method, Drill&Drop, which literally means drilling into the ground and dropping the probe.
More recently, to meet the needs of farmers, a new probe idea was developed that could be installed with the same method as the previous one, but without cables, namely The Bluetooth Drill&Drop, able to communicate the measured data via Bluetooth technology.
Paolo Antini of Sentek
"Sentek, thanks to its long-term vision," says contact person Paolo Antini, "and the steady improvement of its products, has succeeded in meeting many of the needs that the market has shown. For this reason, in 2023, it turns out to be a widely recognized and widespread brand in more than 80 countries. Moreover, if it first seemed to be an added value for any farm that wanted to have more control over its agronomic practices, current climate challenges make this technology increasingly a key lever on which to build a sustainable and virtuous way of managing production processes."
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