Co-creation of Value and Innovations – AgriFarmLab

This Flagship Innovation Experiment (FIE) has the ambition to upscale existing solutions and accelerate the proliferation of innovative solutions on farms by identifying technology providers best suited to respond to each individual challenge that participating farmers encounter.

Concept 

This FIE bridges the gap between farmers and start-ups, providing innovators with the opportunity to perform on-site research in close collaboration with the end-users. At a broader regional level, the Chamber of Agriculture provides advisors’ expertise, introducing new ideas and cutting-edge technologies to farmers. The Competence Centres (CCs) related to this FIE facilitate access to a national as well as international network of firms, research and training institutions along with the plant and livestock value chain. While the innovation ecosystem will be open to all projects supported by the partners, the emphasis on identifying start-ups with relevance will be clearly put on farmers’ needs.

5 SMEs were identified through a call for application: Aptimiz, My Bacchus, Tekxia, Baboa and Advansee.

Aptimiz is a solution that develops a sensor following time and localisation of farmers or workers, and software that analyses the data in order to improve conditions of work and/or efficiency.

 

My Bacchus is a smart sensor that measures several parameters in vinification (temperature, pH, carbonic dioxide, …). The sensor is linked to software for data analysis, it also allows tracking of vines to respond to vine rules requirement about traceability.

 

Tekxia is a start-up that develops a product named MobiProtec, a connected camera that can be settled and unsettled easily. The camera is linked to a movable platform energetically self-sufficient (batteries and solar power).

 

Baoba is an exhaustive software for farm management. Its goal is to address all kinds of farms and productions, by providing an all-in-one interface for the farmer. In the Agri FarmLab project, the start-up Open Business Agriculture, developing Baboa, wants to develop specifically the interface for meadows management.

 

Advansee is an SME that developed a connected bug trap, that is able to identify pests thanks to a camera and new video technologies. Their participation in the Agri FarmLab project must allow them to improve their trap (usability, efficiency, …) and to create databases that analyse can foresee risks linked to the potential arrival of crops.

Implementation 

The goal was to accompany the selected SMEs with services provided by DIHs and CCs of the Agri FarmLab network, in two main activities: on one hand the testing phase in the field with data collection to further develop the innovation and evaluate its relevancy of the final innovation, and on the other hand the financial grant and deliverables.

Each of the five SMEs was able to go through its testing phase for the development and the relevancy of their solution. They met at least one farmer or group of farmers, either for requesting their opinion and views about the products (Open Business Agriculture for instance) or to implement experiments of the products in real situations (Aptimiz or Advansee for instance).

Lessons Learnt 

The biggest challenge was probably to support every SME according to their needs, as they all were at different steps of development. The main lesson learned is that SMEs need a different kind of support according to the development phase they are going through. A start-up that is currently developing the technological aspect of its solution, trying to evolve in terms of functionalities or relevancy, will ask for technological advances (DIHs/CCs competencies) or to get access to farms in order to implement phase tests, or ask their questions directly to the future consumers. However, SMEs that have ended (or almost ended) their technological development phase will enter a commercial development phase, and they will ask for network, shows, mailing or funding opportunities. We had to be able to adapt ourselves to those several demands in order to make every SME progress in its own ways.

The true lesson we learned, is that there is a real demand from the farmers to be integrated into the innovation development process. To build the agriculture of the future we need to listen to today's farmers. One of the best success stories for us, and this is quite contradictory, is the delay of the SME Open Business Agriculture for their software Baoba. They had a timeline for the development of the software, but after they led cooperative workshops to ensure their software was relevant to farmers’ needs, they understood it was not, or only partially. They listened to the farmers, took their opinions into account and resolved to develop a lot of new functionalities for their software, in order to fulfil as much as possible the farmers. Their delay is proof that it is never too late to increase relevancy in the development of an innovative product, and that a complete and deep understanding of the market and customers’ needs are mandatory.