Since 2017, the Nitrate App has made it possible for farmers and agricultural community members to measure nitrate concentrations quickly, cheaply, and easily in water. The app was created primarily for farmers who want to detect and understand nitrate losses. To grow crops, most farmers use fertilizers, which together with manure from livestock causes severe
nitrate inputs to surface water, which is harmful to the ecosystem and our drinking water. It also represents inefficiency and potential added costs as farmers pay to replace fertilizer that was lost to the environment. Additionally, consultants, enforcers, and students also use the Nitrate App as a research, communication and education tool. The counter now stands at more than 25,000 individual measurements mainly in The Netherlands, Denmark, France and the US.
Since the latest update, it is also possible to measure salt concentrations. Soon, Deltares will publish a protocol for nitrogen measurements in soil and we are working on possibilities to measure phosphate and ammonium in the near future.
From virtual IBM Garage to enrichment of measurement results
In the first phase of the collaboration with IBM, the Nitrate App went through the IBM Garage. This end-to-end model for accelerating digital transformation included significant Design Thinking activities in which areas for the Nitrate App’s improvement were identified and prioritized. We are now improving the design in terms of ease of use and consistency. At the same time, the data scientists of both institutes are investigating the possibility of enriching measurement results.
By enriching the measurement results, the Nitrate App can take an additional step toward its ultimate goal: improving water quality. By providing more context, users can see how their measurements compare to other users' measurements, national monitoring networks and water quality standards, taking into account weather conditions. In addition, based on the data collected, combined with site characteristics, the Nitrate App can provide inspiration on appropriate mitigation actions and for measuring their effectiveness.
In 2020, the Nitrate App won the Water Europe Digital Innovation Award. In November 2022, the collaboration between IBM, Deltares and others in the Sustainability Accelerator won the international Shorty Impact Award.