Meet the Finalists - Soilkee
Soilkee is based at Hallora near Warragul, in the Baw Baw Shire, about an hour from Melbourne.
They have developed and manufactured the Soilkee Renovator, an internationally patented technology in the form of a power take off driven implement that reverses soil depletion, sequesters soil carbon, enhances soil fertility, and increases productivity.
Soilkee’s innovation story is one of steady ongoing development over a ten-year period with clear vision, courage and passion driving a transformational outcome.
Most current pasture-based farming systems are based on no tilling of soil structures and adjustment of key nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorous based mineral fertilisers.
The Soilkee system disturbs trenches of soil where the pasture standing in the trench lines are mixed into seed beds that are nested in between rows of undisturbed, remaining pasture for a cover crop.
A mixture of seeds is also dropped into the trenches with aeration and top dressing that further enhances soil function and plant growth with one pass. These physical outcomes activate soil biota and create an ideal environment for seed germination and plant growth
The Soilkee system benefits both agriculture and the environment, improving both productivity and profitability on farm, as well as the health and sustainability of farmland and connected ecosystems.
It delivers substantial increases in dry matter per hectare, crude protein, soil carbon which also increases water holding capacity together with available nitrogen and phosphorous.
Technical transfer of applied research to a real-world outcome is a critical part of the innovation process. Soilkee have demonstrated the Soilkee Renovator to Landcare Groups and trial sites across Gippsland.
In March 2019 Soilkee created an international first by earning the first soil carbon credits to contribute towards Australia’s national target under the Paris Agreement. This was also the first soil-carbon credits worldwide to be eligible under the Paris Agreement.
In July 2020, Soilkee was awarded a $400 000 Coles Nurture Fund Grant to treble to the capacity to manufacture Soilkee Renovator units. This increased manufacturing capacity will be achieved by building a new 2000 square metre factory. The factory is also set to include an education hub to help educate farmers about the benefits of pasture renovation and how the Soilkee Renovator works.
This type of farming practice has been pioneered over many years and Niels now has the big supermarkets on board to pair with farmers for productivity; education centres may be set up; gaining international attention.
Primarily driven by Niels through interest and passion of sustainable agriculture, he’s been successfully going against the grain (pardon the pun, the words fit!) of standard farming practices and getting impressive results.
Niels and his family run the Soilkee business locally in Gippsland and ideally want this to remain their home base, but international markets may also mean the business expands outside the region in the future.
An award winner in 2019, Soilkee appears on two finalist lists again this year, with a place in the Excellence in Innovation Award sponsored by National Australia Bank, and the Excellence in Research and Development category, sponsored by Federation University.