The essential needs for plant production are water, oxygen, CO2 and nutrients. The right amounts of nutrients in crops are crucial for optimal plant health which, in turn, is needed to increase quality and productivity on agricultural farms.
There are many products on the market which promise to increase nutrient density in plants but what they are missing is a smart way to detect and control the quantity of each nutrient. Smart Agrometer is an agtech startup from Lithuania that develops an innovative crop diagnostics device with cloud-integrated analytical software providing instant insight to the farmer on the nutritional health of a crop plant.
In this interview, we have talked to Kipras (business development) and Andrius (finance & operations) to learn how their model can help make global agriculture smarter—starting in Eastern Europe where the team is based. The below answers are a summary of our conversation.
What is Smart Agrometer?
Smart Agrometer manages nutrition one crop at a time. We are developing an innovative crop diagnostics tool for all-round nutrition management so that crops are always nurtured and provide their maximum possible yields. Our patented diagnostic tool detects exactly which nutrients are missing for crop vegetation and thus eliminates uncertainty and lets farmers act fast in order to correct what is missing for the plant and still have a high yield.
Smart Agrometer consists of a handheld measurement device with a spectrometer – roughly the size of a smartphone – which measures light reflected from plants. The device connects to an ever-growing cloud database that uses machine learning algorithms to present plant nutrient insights. Farmers can leverage these insights to make better fertiliser decisions.
How does Smart Agrometer compare to current methods used for plant nutrient analysis?
The solutions that are currently available on the market either provide limited insight or supplementary information that does not tackle the problem of inefficient crop nutrition. Lab tests are being used as a tool to assess essential nutrients in plants, which are more expensive than what we offer and can also take quite a long time delivering the results. In agriculture, time is a crucial factor because farms are exposed to heavy rainfalls, heatwaves, or other variables that change the nutrient prevalence in plants within the shortest timeframe.
In addition to those tests, farmers also look at plants’ leaf colour and their gut feeling to decide how much fertiliser they apply and when. Sadly, farmers tend to apply unnecessary amounts of fertiliser which simply runs off to the groundwater where it causes ecological problems, such as eutrophication or soil erosion. What they are missing is data insights and scientific knowledge to make informed decisions.
Other than conventional analysis methods, our device can measure nutrients at different plant growth stages which helps us gain insights into how nutrient levels change throughout these phases and at which points fertilisers are needed for a rapid recovery response from the plant. We will encourage farmers a transition from buying mixed fertiliser to buying specific nutrients which lets them control the health of their crops at a much more efficient level and ultimately increases yields and yield quality.
How would you describe your impact?
First and foremost, we will equip farmers with a tool that provides data insights to ensure optimal plant nutrition and make smart decisions—but our impact reaches beyond that. The Smart Agrometer solution has the potential to:
- Optimise fertiliser expenditures for the individual farmer.
- Reduce land and water pollution risk from excess fertilisation.
- Improve long-term crop output and yield stability.
Can you tell us more about your team?
We are a team of eight with diverse backgrounds in agronomy, engineering and business development. Our know-how both in science and business not only equips us to develop a scientific solution but also the skillset to bring our product onto the market and work on a rapid expansion plan. We (Kipras and Andrius) lead the operations and business development part.
The team is based in Lithuania but we mostly work with a remote setup, especially now with Covid.
What are your achievements thus far and what’s your market potential?
We have carried out a feasibility study to determine whether the commercialisation of our device makes sense. The positive outcome has backed our fundraising and development efforts. Another great achievement was us winning the 1st place prize in the EIT Food Innovation Prizes competition for the best business idea amongst regional peers. The prize money helped us fund our continued development efforts.
The market opportunity is huge! On a global level, we estimate that we can target roughly 1.7m farms—a potential addressable market of over 10bn euro.
What do you expect from TFF?
We know our local market very well and have already build a great network of partners here in Eastern Europe, which is our key target market. TFF can help us launch into global markets and equip us with the knowledge on how to approach important actors of the agriculture sector in any part of the world. The global expose will hopefully help us to get noticed by potential partners.
We also believe that the pitch and storytelling training will help us to convince investors. We need good storytelling to communicate our positive impact on the economy and the environment.
We will continue sharing about Smart Agrometer’s journey here—make sure to check our Content Hub regularly!
Smart Agrometer and the other Finalist and Boost Teams are currently taking part in the virtual TFF Academy 2020, which is an open-sourced acceleration program anyone can join. Just sign up to the Digital Labs and make sure to request to join the TFF Community Facebook group here where we will keep an active feed for peer-to-peer discussions and relevant conversations!
Co-written by Brazil TFF Ambassador Bea Mazziero