Three companies represent Hungary in the agritech cohort of the X-Europe program. Agroninja would revolutionize the measurement of cattle weight with its solution, SMAPP LAB would develop a digital pest trap, and Inventori Solutions would digitize farm business data.
The X-Europe program, which helps deeptech startups with training, networking and promotion, aims to boost startups to build investor and corporate relationships and also to connect the ecosystem across Europe. In addition to four organizations: The Next Web, TechChill, Growth Tribe and F6S, Design Terminal also plays an active role in the program.
At the agritech cohort the focus is on solutions that aim to revolutionize agriculture with innovative, digital methods. We sat down to talk to the three Hungarian teams about why X-Europe is useful to them, how they see the openness of agriculture to innovation, and of course we elaborated on what kind of problem their development is solving.
Tamás Bodnár and his team realised the lack of data in agriculture recently. “We have started to deal with this problem regarding the cattle industry, but the same is true for the entire spectrum of animal husbandry” says Tamás. „Weighing a living animal is not simple. However, this is essential information for the herd, as it will be one of the key factors to good quality meat. In addition, farmers can save costs when being conscious about it.”
Their solution is a platform that can estimate the weight of animals with a 95% confidence in 20 seconds based on uploaded photos, using a laser rangefinder connected to the mobilephone which is used to make the picture. Moreover, thanks to product development, they can now measure height and other body length with it.
Founded in 2017, Agroninja doesn’t want to be a single-product team. They would like to focus more broadly on the problem area and therefore broaden the product range too. “We created a cattle hub that handles measured data, such as weight, in an online cloud. This way, the obesity curve and development can be monitored and properly documented. ”
They joined the X-Europe program because they didn’t find such a specific type of program in the past, which was focusing on agritech, their own area. Agroninja has already sold its products in 15 countries, but only in small quantities so far. They would want to change that. “We want to meet relevant investors and industry players. We are even looking for potential partners with whom we can reach joint research results in the future. ”
The team is developing a family of digitized traps that can be used to track the swarming of moths and predict defense points against various pests. Donát Posta and Anna Bereczki told us about the product and their expectations for the X-Europe program.
“There are farmers in the surrounding countries, such as Austria, Slovakia and Romania, with whom we have contacted before” – says Anna about their success. – However, we want a bigger breakthrough this season and X-Europe will be the path for this. Our secret goal is to be able to appear on the market not only in Hungary, but also in Europe and possibly later on the American continent.” It was also a tempting opportunity to meet startups here who work in a similar field as SMAPP, so they can help each other a lot. To get to know the environmental factors and endowments of other countries is a primary aspect in the field of agricultural development.
There is a personal story behind the product development process. Anna, whose father is involved in agriculture, faced the exposure of the family business to environmental factors on a daily basis. He and his fellow students initially began to think in university competitions about how to bring a digitized solution to this problem. The trap saves time and work for farmers like Anna’s father and even takes sustainability considerations into account as they can reduce the amount of spray applied unnecessarily.
However, when they started going to idea competitions with the solution and saw that it was a real help to farmers, they were not even at all sure that there would be a market demand for the product. However, during the NAK TechLab incubation program launched by the Design Terminal and the Hungarian National Chamber of Agriculture, they had the opportunity to work with one of Hungary’s largest agricultural companies, KITE Ltd. Later the National Stud Farm and Educational Farm Ltd. in Mezőhegyes also noticed their product. “We have already sold the development to them on our own. And it was the first time that we did not sell the product, but the service,” says Donát. – And now we are starting to open up to the international market. It’s a great path for us, I think.”
Márk Ferencvári told us about their idea and where they started. One of their founders knew, based on agricultural experience, that the sector had administrative and audit difficulties. “His customers, small and medium-sized businesses, but even large companies, were quite at a fallback digitally. That’s why he came up with the idea, a new kind of technology that makes systems more reliable and even capable of eliminating fraud. Blockchain and another co-founder helped us.” They began working to make supply chains more transparent, digitize customer inventory, and take product tracking to the next level.
The team is constantly looking for programs that can help them achieve their goals. Their main expectation towards X-Europe is to establish a corporate partnership. They are also happy to talk to investors, but that is not a priority for them now.
“We want to help make agriculture more modern,” says Mark. – We want to digitize the everyday life of the actors of agriculture, when it comes to stockpiling and production processes. Also for farm workers, retailers or even retail chains.”
And how open is agriculture, which basically uses traditional methods, to innovation? Mark believes that, in general, less so than either abroad or in other Hungarian sectors. Nevertheless, he has a lot of positive experience: market-leading companies are actively looking for these types of solutions, the number of public tenders for this is also growing, and generational shift is becoming more and more prominent in the sector.
According to Tamás Bodnár, this is not an easy market, farmers are often difficult to convince and they decide slowly. However, if professional arguments are made and, moreover, they can be persuaded on a cost basis, it is easier to start digitization. “Early innovators need to start the whole trend. If they start using these products, it will be easier to modernize the whole sector.”
After cohorts focusing on health tech and biotech, then agritech, X-Europe will soon be addressing startups in AI and ML. For more information, please visit X-Europe on www.xeurope.eu, or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement no. 871795.