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FAQ common questions

Do plants/forests create interference in the measurement of soil moisture?

No. When neutrons pass through plants, more specifically through biomass, they interact with the water molecules in them, losing some of their initial energy. As a result, we can distinguish between neutrons at higher energy that have ‘meet’ water in the soil, and those, at lower energy, that have hit water in the biomass.

Can any nearby lakes or rivers influence the soil moisture measurement?

We tend to position the Finapp probe away from large watercourses or any lakes.If this is not possible, a specific calibration is made. Small channels/drains are not significantly affected, as the total water content in the monitored soil volume is much higher than in small channels. The possible error is well below 2%.

Does the slope of the ground influence the quality of the soil moisture measurement?

It tends not to. Neutrons escape from the ground and distribute themselves spatially in all directions. However, if there is a very narrow and deep valley or a very high and steep rocky part within the range of the probe, soil moisture measurement will not be possible at these points. In hilly areas or on terraces, on the other hand, the measurement is valid.

In how many days does it self-calibrate?

It normally takes a couple of days.

Does Finapp offer leasing, rental, or multi-year financing?

Yes. We offer all these options to acquire the sensor in the most convenient way possible.

How can I access the data measured by Finapp probes?

By accessing Finapp’s Cloud directly or via API. This second option allows customers to integrate Finapp data into pre-existing platforms, for example for automatic irrigation management.

Do I have to install many Finapp probes to monitor large areas?

The number of Finapp probes required must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with our team. However, with monoculture (same crop) and similar soil conditions, the soil moisture value measured by Finapp probes does not change much even a few kilometers away. This is because our measurement overcomes local soil inhomogeneities and considers an area large enough to be representative for a few kilometers.

Is the Finapp probe equipped with GPS?

It is possible to integrate GPS. This option is necessary if you want to use the probe on the move (rover mode), for example to obtain detailed soil moisture maps. For fixed installations we do not recommend adding GPS since the exact coordinates of the installation can easily be found online.

How often does the instrument measure the water content in the soil/snow?

The probe continuously measures Muons and Neutrons, the particles we use to provide soil moisture and SWE – water content in snow. However, the data is provided in hourly resolution.

From installation, is the data immediately available?

No, the probe takes a couple of days to self-calibrate.

How often should maintenance be carried out?

The Finapp probe has no moving or consumable parts, so it does not require systematic maintenance. However, we recommend cleaning the panel when necessary for better recharging of the internal battery.

Does it work in areas where no GPRS signal is available?

The Finapp probe works everywhere, as neutrons and muons reach the Earth’s surface. The data is written locally to a microSD card, so no information is lost. If there is no telephone signal at the installation point, the data cannot be accessed in real time, but can still be downloaded via the microSD card.

Should it be calibrated? How often?

The probe calibrates itself within a few days of installation, providing very accurate soil moisture measurements with a typical error of +/-2% (gravimetric soil moisture). If greater precision is required, the probe can be calibrated by comparing it with gravimetric samples, according to a precise scheme codified in scientific literature.

Does altitude influence the measurement made?

Altitude increases the number of cosmic neutrons available, so it is possible to have more precise estimates of soil moisture or SWE (water content in snow). However, the most important aspect is another: thinner air allows neutrons to travel a greater distance before decaying. If at sea level a Finapp probe ‘covers’ an area of 5 hectares, at 2,000 m the area reaches 15-20 hectares.

Does the latitude influence the measurement taken?

The higher the latitude, the more neutrons can reach the ground, as the earth’s magnetic field is different at the poles than at the equator. The Finapp probe can be used anywhere, even at the equator, but to get the same accuracy as the poles, it is necessary to use a larger Finapp probe or have a longer counting window.

What is the purpose of measuring muons?

Muons are subatomic particles generated by the interaction between cosmic rays and Earth’s atmosphere. Finapp found that these electrically charged and “easy” to count particles are closely related to fast neutrons.

What is the difference between slow neutrons and fast neutrons?

Fast neutrons are generated by the interaction between cosmic rays and the Earth’s atmosphere and, as the name suggests, have a high speed. This is why most of them reach the Earth’s surface, since due to their energy they are not absorbed by water molecules in clouds or plants, but penetrate deep into the ground. In contrast, slow neutrons have lower energy, arise from the interaction between fast neutrons and water molecules in the soil or snow, and spread back into the atmosphere, distributing themselves spatially in every direction.

Does the height above the ground of the sensor affect the area to be monitored?

Yes, higher heights result in a larger radius and vice versa lower heights result in a smaller radius. In standard situations and at sea level, a probe resting on the ground can detect neutrons generated up to about 20 m away, the radius increases to about 125 m with a probe installed at 2 m, while a probe installed at 10 m will have a radius of more than 200 m. to be verified with scientists.

Why is a large-scale soil moisture measurement better than a point measurement?

A point measurement of soil moisture is representative of a small area. The more heterogeneous the soil texture, i.e., the more the percentage of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter changes even over a short distance, the more the point-measured moisture value will be different even moving a few meters. Therefore, to decide whether to irrigate or not, it is necessary to know the soil moisture data that best represent the reality of the entire field or at least of irrigation area. For this reason, it is useful to have large-scale averaged data.

What is the difference between spatial/real-world measurement with a CRNS sensor and monitoring with satellite technology?

There are two basic differences:

  1. The satellite can provide soil moisture only at the surface (less than 5 cm depth) and only in some cases, i.e., with mostly clear skies and vegetation-free soil. The presence of trees, greenhouses, arable land completely blocks the signal. In these cases is possible to have only a vigor index or other indices, but no information on soil moisture. The Finapp probe, on the other hand, measures soil moisture at a depth of 30-50 cm, regardless of the presence or absence of vegetation and weather conditions.
  2. The satellite data is available only a couple of times a week, provided the skies are clear enough, while the Finapp data is available all the time and in real time.

How often is recalibration needed? When is it necessary, how should it be done?

The Finapp probe self-calibrates a few days after installation. This self-calibration provides accurate soil moisture data with a typical error of +-2-3%. Therefore, subsequent calibration is not necessary.