Expert Partners: FarmHack.NL

Technology can change a lot in how things are done in agriculture: making operations management easier, improving resource utilization, and sustaining farming. In order to achieve that, we need the tech-savvy and creative minds to commit to agriculture. The sector is facing a number of challenges and this is an opportunity for start-ups to come up with innovative solutions and bring better results.

The Agrytech Hackathon aims to bring in innovators and help them, through the course of one weekend, turn their ideas into tangible business opportunities, eligible to apply to the Agrytech Accelerator Program by Berytech.

For this Hackathon, Berytech is partnering with experts FarmHack.NL, a Dutch network organization that has been organizing hackathons and building an AgTech community for over 5 years.

Who is FarmHack.NL?

FarmHack.NL is a catalyst for solutions and innovations in the agricultural and farming sector. It mobilizes coders, developers, creatives and domain experts to tackle IT challenges that farmers are facing.

Their hackathons attract many different types of users of agricultural data, which yields richer, more creative and more applied agricultural technology. Participants work in interdisciplinary teams, on the farm, with the farmer. They build solutions to real-world problems, through ideation and code.

Anne Bruinsma co-founded FarmHack.NL with the belief that we are underutilizing the full potential of data and technology in sustainable food production systems comments: “We ignite data and tech-driven open online/offline collaborations between tech entrepreneurs, farmers and domain experts. We wrangle data, build APIs and prototypes, and host hackathons with one goal in mind: better tech for farmers.”

Who are FarmHack.NL’s Partners?

FarmHack.NL started out doing projects that were financed by sponsorship and subsidies. They collaborated with universities, government and sponsors and eventually agri-businesses; software companies soon started to participate and look for possibilities to collaborate. Large software companies in the Netherlands are partnering with FarmHack.NL, and clients range from Nutreco – a global feed company, to Stichting de Noordzee – an NGO for sustainable fisheries.

FarmHack.NL was developed as an open source project, urging teams to make everything open, online and distributed from the get-go through GitHub. They also have a Gitter channel which others can use to follow their progress.

What kind of support have they received from the global community?

With the traction and results also came some international interest. GODAN, the Global Initiative on Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition, became an important partner. The European Union is supporting and facilitating Digital Innovation Hubs, and they are promoting FarmHack.NL as a flagship project. FarmHack.NL is developing a partnership with Purdue University in the USA particularly with the OATS centre, the Open Ag Technologies and Systems Group run by Aaron Ault, who is a farmer and computer scientist. They have been collaborating on different hackathons, and are planning to turn the collaboration into a transatlantic partnership. FarmHack.NL also supports FarmHack.org, a worldwide community of farmers that build and modify their own tools. They share their hacks online and at meet ups.

The upcoming Agrytech Hackathon in Beirut is an amazing opportunity to connect to the growing global community to encourage collaboration and cooperation to help find innovative uses of data.

What are the results to expect from a hackathon?

The approach of open collaboration and sharing leads to tangible results. This includes working prototypes, visualizations, scenarios, analyses or clean data that allow for further processing.

An interesting outcome of a hackathon for instance was a web application called Boer&Bunder. This app visualizes open data on plot level. Before the hackathon, farmers were not using these freely-available open data sources. The application changed that completely: now, every day around 3000 farmers are using the application intensively. The winning team of the hackathon consisted of a representative of a software company, 2 representatives of a UX/UI startup and two individuals. After two years of collaboration, it is now the software company that is proceeding on further development of the application.

Another example is called HalloBoer, which is similar to Airbnb for local produce. In 2016, FarmHack.NL organized a hackathon on short supply chains, connecting farmers and consumers, through a smart platform that focuses on matching demand and supply of local produce. Using geotagging consumers are enabled to make conscious decisions on food consumption and the impact it has on landscape and living environment. The winning team managed to get funding for a local pilot. They are launching their platform in a couple of months.

In addition to prototype applications, the hackathons also lead to knowledge exchange, collaborate on common infrastructure, and possibilities to leverage the power of the community. This is why for AgTech providers, these hackathons also offer direct, agile and nimble contact with clients/customers, and access to creative tech talent.

Deadline April 12th, 2018