The Past and Future of Agricultural Data Collection: Part I

In the realm of commercial agriculture, soil moisture probes stand out as some of the most critical agricultural sensors. These devices offer invaluable insights into soil conditions, helping growers make informed decisions. Since the 1990s, sensor technology has advanced rapidly. This post, the first in a two-part series, explores the evolution of soil moisture probes and the methods used to collect their data.

Sensor Technology in the 1990s and Earlier

Before the late 1990s, soil moisture probes were relatively simple, utilizing resistance-based and tension measurements. Farmers had to manually gather data, calibrate, and maintain the sensors, and record moisture levels at specific intervals. While these probes provided groundbreaking insights for the time, the process of checking each probe and noting down individual measurements was both tedious and time-consuming.

Data Loggers in the 2000s

With advancements in sensor technology, data collection methods also improved. Dielectric sensors (1) became popular due to their enhanced accuracy in measuring soil moisture. The introduction of data loggers revolutionized the field. These devices, equipped with onboard memory, automated data storage at regular intervals. Although growers still had to visit the site to retrieve data, they could now access historical soil moisture data and collect it all at once, reducing the labor and resources required.

Mid-2000s to 2010s: Precision Farming Systems

As technology continued to progress, soil moisture probes began incorporating sensors at various depths (2), measuring not only soil moisture but also temperature and salinity. These probes integrated with other sensors like weather stations and data management platforms, enabling real-time monitoring and remote data retrieval. Growers could now collect comprehensive soil moisture data in real-time, without needing to physically access the sensors, thus streamlining the data collection process and facilitating data-driven decision-making.

To learn more about the evolution of soil moisture probes and the ongoing innovations in IoT connectivity, low-power transmission, and Cloud connectivity, read part II at


  1. Evaluation of Standard Calibration Functions for Eight Electromagnetic Soil Moisture Sensors
  2. Soil Moisture Sensing Systems for Improving Irrigation Scheduling