New virtual reality video tells soil health story from 'every angle'

Soil Health Partnership
Soil Health Partnership

ST. LOUIS –  As interest grows in soil health and its potential to optimize farming, the Soil Health Partnership has developed a new tool to immerse the inquisitive. Partnering with StoryUP, the nonprofit ag group has produced a “virtual reality” video that will allow viewers to visit a farm enrolled in SHP and experience a Virtual Field Day.

“One of our most powerful assets is our enrolled farmers sharing their stories and knowledge with others,” said NCGA Vice President of Production and Sustainability, Nick Goeser. “This video format allows viewers to transport themselves to a farm and learn from the farmer as if they are standing right there with him at a field day. We are all about innovation, and that spirit extends to our communications program.”

Virtual reality is 360-degree, 3D video or computer-generated environments viewed with special goggles where the user can see in all directions.

After giving some attendees of the Soil Health Summit a preview in January, the SHP officially launches the video, called “New Frontier in Agriculture,” at the Commodity Classic conference and tradeshow, Feb. 27 – March 1 in Anaheim, Calif. 

The 4-minute experience, viewed in a Samsung GearVR headset, places the user in close proximity to farmers and SHP staff on Tim Smith’s farm in Eagle Grove, Iowa.

Smith, enrolled with SHP since 2014, demonstrates how he sets up strip-till equipment (a less intensive form of tillage), discusses why soil health matters to him and explains the benefits he’s experienced.

“The most obvious benefits to using cover crops, strip-till or no-till on my farm are lack of erosion…and less ephemeral gullies in my fields,” Smith says in the video. “When we get heavy rainfalls I’m not so concerned about washouts.” 

The video is available to watch with any VR headset, including cardboard versions. To watch it in a headset:

  • Download the YouTube app for iPhone or Android
  • Play the video (on the SHP YouTube Channel)
  • Turn phone horizontal
  • Click the Google Cardboard icon on the lower right side of the screen
  • Phone will split into two screens
  • Place horizontal phone in a VR headset

For regular viewing, the video is available on the SHP YouTube Channel, where it is best viewed in the Google Chrome browser, which provides arrows allowing the user to turn the viewpoint.