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Insight into the effect of local weather on crops with sensors
Niek van Andel, Sven Boogaard and Thomas Brocken are the forces behind AgroExact. The basis of their business is to provide growers with insight into the effects of local weather on crops. This is done through a network of sensors that has been placed throughout the Netherlands. The network consists of weather stations and rain gauges. Niek: ‘’The 350 weather stations measure all weather parameters such as precipitation, wind, temperature, and humidity. Supplemented with additional rain gauges for precipitation. This has to be as local as possible, which is why we are constantly expanding this network.’’
When taking out a subscription to AgroExact, growers choose how many measurement points they want to monitor from the network. They also receive an additional measuring instrument, such as an advanced rain gauge that they can place on their own field. Niek: ‘’After all, a shower can give many different amounts of precipitation over a kilometer. Of course in this way we also offer the information that a farmer in particular is most interested in. All weather information can then be clearly viewed in an app.’’
An upgradable package
AgroExact offers various services. For example, growers can expand their subscription with soil moisture sensors and specific advice for the optimal irrigation of their crop. Niek: ‘How a plant grows depends on the soil conditions. On the outside the soil may look bone dry, but when you dig deeper there can be a world of difference.' Soil sensors measure what moisture is available at the plant. Through the app, growers receive advice on irrigation via traffic light colors. AgroExact has also developed links with so-called Decision Support Systems (DSS). Such systems help growers protect their crops from insects and diseases. With AgroExact, local weather data at growers can be linked to these, making the advice more accurate.
The importance of measuring and forecasting
Growers are hugely dependent on the weather. Knowing what the weather does is therefore important. Niek: 'In a wet period, the challenge is to get all the work done in the fields. Knowing what the weather is doing has to do with efficiency and the costs you incur. If a farmer drove half an hour to a field for nothing, it did cost fuel. Many decisions the farmer ultimately makes depend on the weather. What he is going to do that day, where he directs his staff and things like that. And how well his crop grows, of course.’’
Optimal irrigation and good crop protection also bring benefits. "Watering your crops on time, even when you can't visually see any water shortage yet, can prevent drought stress and ensure that your crops don't miss out on growth. On the other hand, you also want to avoid overwatering, which can cost unnecessary money and water. The better a farmer knows how much and when to irrigate their crops, the more efficient it is. This is especially important during droughts or in areas where water is scarce. When you allow your crops to grow optimally, you get the most out of the space you have and see better results. The same goes for crop protection. If you know under which conditions a certain disease or insect appears, and what the best weather conditions are for spraying, you can make optimal use of pesticides."
Funding and recognition
In 2019, AgroExact received their first funding from the Brabant Startup Fund. Niek: ‘’This allowed us to further develop in 2019 and our idea became more and more serious.’’ In 2020, the startup received an Innovation Loan from Rabobank. ‘’This loan was well-suited for the phase we were in at that time. The Rabobank Innovation Loan allowed us to further expand our network and test the concept with more growers.’’ An additional financing from Rabobank followed in 2022, which enabled AgroExact to scale up further. By now, 800 growers are using the startup's services.
In a comparison test between different soil moisture sensors conducted by Wageningen University & Research, AgroExact emerged as the best. ‘’The tests confirm the good performance of the sensors, and we scored 9.7 in accuracy. We also scored high in user-friendliness.’’ It is clear that the concept works and is appreciated. And AgroExact does not want to stop there. ‘’We would like to help every Dutch grower optimize their business operations, and who knows, maybe soon even beyond the borders’’, Niek and Sven conclude.
The role of Rabobank
Gerben Dijksterhuis is closely involved in the development and financing of AgroExact from Rabobank and the Startup & Scale-up Team. Gerben: ‘’From their dream and passion, they were one of the first to enter the market with this idea. We saw potential early on and therefore granted the Rabobank Innovation Loan. AgroExact also had a clear and practical plan on how they wanted to scale up. We therefore didn't have to think long about the additional financing either.’’
Rabobank helps startups and scale-ups like AgroExact with more than financing, says Gerben: ‘We have a lot of knowledge of different sectors and of course an extensive network of growers and horticulturists, where the idea of AgroExact fits very well. We like to link our network to innovating and interesting solutions like this.
Find out which financing suits your business
Rabobank supports startups and scale-ups in different life stages. AgroExact is a good example of what role we play and our level of support.
Does your startup or scale-up also need financing?
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