The farmer must make strides. Big steps even, because if it's not the environment or efficiency then it's some other obstacle lying in his field. Smart Agri Technology dives into the gap between today's practice and the future of agribusiness with knowledge of technology. 'Older farmers think in clay, software developers in zeros and ones,' Jeroen Wolters says jokingly. 'Those two worlds need to be connected.'
Jeroen Wolters from Mensingeweer and his associate Han Hilbrands from Dalen are the owners of Smart Agri Technology. They know each other from their studies in Agrotechnology and Management at the hbo in Dronten. The duo has knowledge when it comes to new techniques and possibilities.
And the pair deploys that competence broadly. For example, they want to use new techniques to improve cultivation and soil quality, looking at the environment, the climate, efficiency and yield. The result should be a better future for everyone.
The differences between the software developer and farmer were the impetus for the company. 'When we discovered that distinction, we wanted to help,' he says. 'We wanted to make the link between those two worlds; we wanted to work as consultants. But then you need money for your ideas and you end up with manufacturers.'
They came into contact with Ole Green of AgroIntelli, a Danish company that specializes in thoughtful automation of farming. Wolters smiles when he thinks back to the first meeting, because he recognized in Green a real farmer, not someone who wants to show off an impressive tractor. "It was quickly apparent that he wants to work the land with as little damage to the soil as possible.
For the record, a tractor weighs between six and seven tons and thus compacts the soil. This must and can be done differently, Wolters believes. Now it is often still the case: one man on one tractor. But a tractor can also drive autonomously. What about several tractors, lighter ones at that, that are controlled by a single person from the side, says Wolters.
They drive on a software program and are tracked by a camera. 'So that the tractors do drive the row they are supposed to drive and that they travel the route that has been entered in advance,' Wolters says. 'It's efficient because through the camera you can follow whether everything is going well. Normally, a farmer has to get off the tractor to check if it is being driven the right way. The tractor then stands still and that is a waste of time.'
This is the kind of tractor combination Smart Agri Technology is going to offer. 'It took about 50 years for the tractor to take over the role of the horse,' Wolters knows. 'But the entry of robotics is moving faster.' AgroIntelli is going to help with that. There is knowledge of robotics and automation there. Wolters: 'Everyone there has an agricultural background. The first time we met Green, he arrived in overalls. Surely that inspired confidence.'
The guys at Smart Agri Technology are taking a risk. They will soon offer the farmer a combination of two autonomously driving tractors, two seeders and two hoes. Wolters: "It's the beginning. We are going to see what else we can offer. The farmer is usually wealthy and willing to invest in something like this. But the farmer wants to know if it works.'
Leading the way
This development suits the Netherlands, Wolters believes. People are really leading the way here. Still, things can and must be better. It's not just about how to get as many tubers out of the ground in an optimal month, but also how to reduce the diseases in a field because, after all, they reduce the yield. Wolters and Hilbrands use every conceivable technology of our time, artificial intelligence for example. Smart Agri Technology cooperates in that area with Kaios in Bedum, but also with other knowledge parties such as Dacom (weather) and Eurofins (soil).
Jeroen Wolters: "We try to tie it all together. We have a broad network, but also widely available knowledge. We know a little bit about everything. And the same goes for the other parties. We all benefit from making it work. And so we do not exclude each other. In ten to fifteen years, all this kind of thing will be well established. We will then know very precisely why the yield is lagging behind for once.'
The agricultural world will have changed considerably by then, Wolters expects. He and his associate Hilbrands know that world like the back of their hand. And that is an advantage. We understand the sensitivities and we know the tendency to get stuck in traditions. Look at the cooperatives. Farmers can now get much better prices, but they still stay with their cooperative. The farmer must become central again. And soon there will be plenty of attention for time, money, the environment and society. Thanks to technology.
NOM Business Development Manager Joep de Vries on Smart Agri Technologies
'We were at the AgriTechnica trade fair in Hanover a few months ago and 150 Dutch companies were present there. But smart farming, one of the areas I am involved in, was poorly represented by the Dutch. I immediately saw it as a challenge to find companies involved in robotization. To my amazement, Smart Agri Technology called me in January. Two young guys who take an open-minded and very different view of the agricultural sector. They don't supply robots, but a weed-free field.'
In this white paper you will learn:
- What the innovation process looks like and what challenges you face along the way
- What opportunities there are to fund this early stage of your idea/product
- In what ways NOM as an investor can help you
Please note that this whitepaper is only available in Dutch at the moment. We are in the process of translating this whitepaper.