Less than a year after opening up, we celebrated the end of the acceleration program with the first Demo Day on March 11th. Over 100 international attendees from the agrifood industry joined the virtual event to hear about our program, see the startups pitch and get more insights on innovation for soil health.
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Incubators are great for skyrocketing your business in an environment where coffee machine chit-chat can turn into a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity. Is it possible to establish this typical atmosphere of a startup community remotely? We found out by doing.
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ROOTCAMP STARTUP Smart Cloud Farming: “The world of agriculture is changing rapidly - we map it for you.”
The Berlin-based startup SmartCloudFarming is one of the first who joined RootCamp. Their remote sensing technology provides 3D soil maps about moisture and nutrients as well as soil organic carbon.
Why is that useful? “Imagine the corona-virus can be identified via satellite in real time images. You could find out the values for every city and act accordingly. If you would use the same value and actions for the whole country it would not be effective. The same applies to soil organic carbon. Instead of having one value for five hectares you can get ten values for each hectare using a satellite. Precise and in depth”, explains CEO and plant biotechnologist Michele Bandecchi. Compared to other technologies, they don’t have to collect soil samples, are faster and more scalable.
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RootCamp startup CROPT: “We need to increase the agricultural production by 70% until the year 2050 and the only technology that can help us today is IT”
Sanja Brdar and Oskar Marko from Novi Sad/Serbia are ringing in the next agricultural revolution. Their startup CROPT offers AI solutions for the agriculture of the future which means they use high tech to accelerate the development of the sector with big data, AI, machine learning and similar concepts.
While shaping future developments Oskar looks back at history to explain how this modern technology came into place. Agriculture was shaped by developments like “the Industrial Revolution in the 19th and early 20th century where new tools were developed. During the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s new fertilizers and pesticides were introduced. All of this was done to increase yield."
Now there is again a pressing need to increase yield: “We need to increase the agricultural production by 70% until the year 2050 and the only technology that can help us today is IT." This is where CROPT comes into place. Their technology analyses data to make precise recommendations on the kind and amount of fertilizer a farmer needs. This way yield goes up and costs go down.
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At their former employer BASF, Maik Schacht and Norbert Heidinger worked with an experienced team on making a novel hydrogel that helps plants thrive despite climate-change induced droughts, available to farmers. To get faster and more effective, Maik and Norbert bought the technology and the knowledge from the corporation and founded their own startup Be-Grow as a management buy-out.
On farms the hydrogel makes more water and nutrients available to the plants, which is crucial for the survival of plants in dry summers and to produce more yield. Unlike former similar products, it is completely free of harmful substances and can even be used in combination with fertilizers. The hydrogel is as effective as a greenhouse when growing plants but at low cost for the farmer: “The investment of a farmer to build up a greenhouse is about one million Euro per hectare. In comparison, the cost for Be-Grow Boost products for one hectare is about 250 Euro, which can be easily covered by the additional yield.” This way the product is also affordable for smallholder farmers in poor countries.
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When Florian Gösling and David Gebhard went backpacking in India, they didn’t plan to come back with a business idea. But when travelling the country they also visited shrimp farms. While India is the biggest producer of shrimp globally and ships them worldwide, the conditions are not always the best for the animals, the consumers and the environment. So David and Florian decided to find a better solution - even though as a lawyer and an engineer they had nothing to do with the agrifood industry. What got them hooked was the possibility of “creating a positive impact with a product that everybody loves”, says David.