Dutch start-up pays for farmers’ weather stations

03-04-2020 | |
Sven Boogaard - Foto: Bert Jansen
Sven Boogaard - Foto: Bert Jansen

The Dutch start-up AgroExact aims to set up a national network of weather stations. Arable farmers only pay for the data.

The start-up AgroExact from Den Bosch, the Netherlands, will set up its own national network of weather stations, thereby providing farmers with relevant local weather data. AgroExact also offers soil sensors for irrigation advice. The special thing is that, unlike competitors, growers do not have to invest in an expensive advanced weather station on their plot, but can buy the data at a low annual rate.

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Sven Boogaard: "We want to offer an affordable service, where the grower doesn't pay for all the costs." - Foto: Bert Jansen

Sven Boogaard: “We want to offer an affordable service, where the grower doesn’t pay for all the costs.” – Foto: Bert Jansen

Who is AgroExact and what is your goal?

“AgroExact consists of me, Sven Boogaard (22), and my former classmates Niek van Andel (22) and Thomas Brocken (23). During my graduation assignment at KPN, I found out that the arable farming chain has a great need for weather data. I am mainly concerned with the commercial side. Niek studied physics with a specialisation in meteorology. For ten years he has had his own measurement set-up in the garden in Almkerk, of which he posted the data on Alweeronline.nl.”

“Niek discovered that many growers in his area closely monitored his website, looking for local weather data to match their cultivation practices. Niek and I saw the need for local weather data and came up with a way in which we could offer data measured on a customer’s field without this costing the grower a lot. We then approached Thomas Brocken, who studied Software Science. He has developed all software for AgroExact. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 we ran pilots in the Land of Altena with about fifteen growers, and that went well. So now we‘re trying to roll it out nationwide. The potential is there.”

What does it cost the arable farmer?

“An advanced weather station that measures temperature at 10 centimeters and 1.5 meters high, relative humidity (RH) at 1.5 meters high, precipitation, sun and wind costs roughly € 1,000. AgroExact bears those costs. So a grower does not have to invest in expensive weather stations himself. An annual subscription costs € 195. The farmer can view the weather data from five stations. The weather on a plot a few kilometers away can be significantly different than on the farm.”

Pilots have shown that the soil moisture sensor pays for itself quickly

“With this service, the grower can see, for example, whether rain has passed over the field and whether or not he must spray. We also offer soil moisture sensors. The grower must purchase these sensors, because it concerns soil measurements and, unlike weather data, a neighbour cannot do anything with soil moisture data from a neighbour’s plot. Because what if the neighbour irrigated last week and he didn‘t? Based on these soil measurements, AgroExact provides advice on whether and how much to irrigate. This sensor costs € 249 to purchase, with an annual subscription of € 80 on top. Pilots have shown that this sensor pays for itself quickly.”

What is your revenue model?

“Offering the local weather data to growers, but also to other suitable parties. The current weather data providers mainly let arable farmers pay for the costs of weather stations. We want to offer an affordable service, where the grower doesn’t pay for all the costs. We want to place 2,000 weather stations with growers across the Netherlands. We call that network the AtmoNetwork. That is not possible in one year. The aim is to place 300 this year, in each province about 25. This makes the AtmoNetwork much more intricate than, for example, the KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute), which has thirty monitoring stations spread across the Netherlands.”

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Martijn Knuivers Arable and machinery writer