Agroop – the Portuguese seeder that’s looking to harvest €500,000
A Portuguese Agrotech startup is planning to revolutionise the way farmers manage crop hydration worldwide.
Agroop, founded by CEO Bruno Fonseca, is currently seeking €500,000 through an equity crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs.
The company was founded in 2014 with the mission to democratise the access to technology in the farming sector by building a big data analytics platform to help farmers and agronomic agents to be more productive, allowing them to monitor costs, water needs and predict risk factors and identify the best procedures to follow.
One of the innovative applications they have developed is called the STOOCK – a turn-key application that allows users to calculate water needs for crops.
This sensor they have developed offers the perfect solution for consultants and farmers who want to monitor water needs and irrigate crops in a more efficient way to ensure crop health; prevent and mitigate production risks such as diseases, fungi and pests; collect and centralise production factors and crop quality parameters and improve productivity by finding the best production parameters and technical operations.
“Our proposal is very specific in terms of Water Management. It is in the way we deliver our product that makes it different from competing systems in the market” says Bruno Fonseca in an interview with Essential Business.
“Our approach was to design a system that was so simple that it could be installed and deployed by the final user — i.e. the farmer, so that information could be accessed by a laptop or mobile phone” explains Bruno Fonseca who adds that the simplicity and cheapness of the application is basically democratising its access to the farming sector.
To do that the startup developed an IoT device called the STOOCK which has only one sensor that can collect data on soil moisture, soil temperature, solar radiation and air humidity and temperature. With the data that the STOOCK collects Agroop can generate algorithms for water monitoring.
The sensor is very easy to deploy, it is energetically self-sufficient and it doesn’t have cables, making the process more seamless for the end user. The information can be fed directly to a computer or a cell phone.
And the sensor, which is based on ETC technology (electron transport chain) or what plants lose through evapo-respiration, is not outrageously expensive, costing from €200 per sensor to monitor crops 24/7 with little maintenance.
“Basically the sensor will tell the farmer how much water to provide on a daily basis calculated on the amount of water that has evaporated from the plants,” explains Fonseca.
From previous Seedrs campaigns, Agroop was able to raise around €685,000. With the first campaign in 2015, it became the first Portuguese startup to be funded trough Seedrs, securing €75,000.
In 2016 the company raised a further €95,000 and in 2017 Agroop raised €514,000 (with a 257% overfunding).
Bruno Fonseca says that Agroop started commercialising the system in 2018 and already has the product operating in 10 countries: California, Australia, Angola, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Colombia, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
“Water or the lack of it is a big issue right now everywhere in the world and the farming sector is very willing to solve this problem because 40% of water used by the sector is wasted so there is lots of room for improvement” explains Bruno Fonseca.
The question now is which markets would be willing to invest in a solution like the one Agroop currently offers, with Government-backed projects being applied in countries in Africa that traditionally suffer droughts being prime candidates for Agroop.
“At the moment we’re negotiating with the Cape Verde government to apply a subsidised model of our system in a partnership with the World Bank to implement the technology in this type of countries,” he says.
Fonseca says that in the beginning they tried to get funding from business angels but found it was “very difficult to convince them of solution’s potential and we were offered a paltry €50,000 for half of the equity in the company”.
“We realised that we would run out of equity and die pretty soon that way, so we decided to go down the crowdfunding route and found Seedrs” he says adding that they got €70,000 for just 5% of the company.
Now in its fourth campaign which ends next month, it aims to net €1.2 million in all for about a 35% equity share in the company.
Bruno Fonseca says that he had always been fascinated by people who from nothing or with very little managed to create ingenious and revolutionary projects.
“I think that developing a project is fantastic; we have to be very demanding of ourselves and put everything we have into it. I’ve always though that we, as human beings, have the capacity to make choices. I’ve made mine and even if the project had failed, I would have gained so much more than I could have lost because much worse than failing is feeling that you didn’t even try and I don’t want to have to regret not having tried something,” he concludes.