FARMERS AND START-UPS DISCUSS DIGITIZATION IDEAS WITHIN THE START.CONNECT PROJECT
Photo courtesy of Start.connect
Digitisation in agriculture is all the rage. But will euphoric entrepreneurs consider the fact that ammonia emission from pig manure will attack any high-tech products present in the pigsty? Or the many fungal diseases that occur in winegrowing and other special crops, for instance? Even the very best idea requires dialogue to take the idea further and to ultimately tailor it to the target group. This is exactly what has been happening at FH Münster in Steinfurt: the start.connect networking project has brought together seven farmers from the region and four start-ups and young entrepreneurs. Which turned out to be quite a combination.
Corvitec’s Manuel Sprehe, for example, introduced his pig counter: when new piglets arrive at the farm, the farmer drives them into the sty along a corridor – Sprehe’s camera system recognises each individual animal, and counts them automatically. “This saves admin, time and money, and eliminates the errors caused by counting the animals manually,” said Sprehe. “Such errors in turn affect documentation, quality control and taxes.” And then the discussion began: internet access is poor in many pigsties; the camera that recognises the piglets needs to be portable; and does it really work? Some had already experienced poor image recognition in the greenhouse. But many saw the great potential of Sprehe’s system, particularly because it will soon be able to recognise individual body parts. “If the software is able to automatically distinguish boars from the other pigs by their testes, it would be snapped up by the slaughterhouses,” exclaimed the farmer Georg Freisfeld. Until now, people have had to classify each pig individually as male or female, because boars are charged differently.
Tobias Kreklow from Haip-Solutions took the workshop participants into the world of plants. By attaching a hyperspectral camera to the bottom of a drone, he says he is able to detect plant diseases before they break out. “We detect the spectral signature, discovering the plant’s chemistry, as it were. This enables us to identify plant stress – such as weeds, fungal infestations, dry soil, and nitrogen deficiency – on the fields.” Together, the farmers then discussed matters such as: How can the drone flight be integrated into farm operations? Do staff require training? Has the role played by the weather already been taken into account in the environment? The idea could be worthwhile because every kilo of yield counts: potato and sugar beet losses in particular are very costly.
Photo courtesy of Start.connect
“The beauty of this project is that it enables us to contact certain people and companies, in this case start-ups, entrepreneurs and farmers, and bring them round the table in a matching workshop,” explained Lisa Geringhoff, who manages start.connect. “Start-ups present their products, and farmers provide feedback. The Chamber of Agriculture is also involved. It is about networking and sharing information, which also leads to the development of new strategic partnerships.”
start.connect acts as a platform seeking to help companies in the area of digitisation by introducing them to entrepreneurs, start-ups and generators of ideas, especially in rural areas. The project is run jointly by FH Münster’s Institute for Process Management and Digital Transformation (IPD) and the economic development agencies of the Districts of Steinfurt and Coesfeld. The networking project is funded by the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, and will run until summer 2020.
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