Digitalisation in agriculture has mainly focused on increasing efficiency and productivity for farmers, rather than developing sustainable food production systems with farmers. By mobilising tech savy and creative minds to agriculture, FarmHack.NL tries to use the full potential of data and technology and aims at empowered farmers, smarter farming, and diversified business ideas.
When it comes to innovation in agriculture, a lot is being said all around the world about the potential of agricultural technologies. Agricultural technology is making it easier to manage operations and better utilize resources. But to farmers, many questions remain unanswered, such as how to keep up with new technologies and how to build a data infrastructure that will keep them on top of their data. And then there is growing concern about issues such as data privacy and data ownership.
FarmHack.NL is a catalyst for solutions and innovations in the agricultural and farming sector. We mobilize coders, developers, creatives and domain experts to tackle IT challenges that farmers are facing. We help build new data driven partnerships to create new value propositions. The ambition is to grow into a permanent power for good within the agribusiness and agricultural sector: a community that addresses challenges in an open and transparent manner. Our motto (kudos to Gov.uk): “Make things open, it makes things better”.
Examples of FarmHacks
We have developed Farm Hack as an open source project, urging teams to make everything open, online and distributed from the get go through GitHub. We also have a Gitter channel which others (you!) can use to follow our progress. Our ambition is to develop into a permanent force of "open change for good" in the Dutch Agri world. 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 because ‘we become better farmers when we work together’.
Hackathons are competitions where multidisciplinary teams work on challenges to come up with data and tech driven solutions. In a short amount of time they design, combine and implement smart and innovative data-driven hard- and software solutions. Rapid prototyping and a strong focus on end user needs, make for a highly energetic and effective pressure cooker setting. Hackathons are a means to encourage collaboration and cooperation to help find innovative uses of data.
With FarmHack.NL we have taken this format to the farm. Farmers are facing the shortcomings that come with closed IT. Innovation cycles are slow, tech providers are using non-interoperability as a business model, generally speaking the UX/UI is not great, and there is a lot of tech push instead of tech pull. This leads to technology that is hard to work with, a risk of vendor lock-in and widespread mistrust among farmers.
Our hackathons attract more and 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.
Our approach of open collaboration and sharing leads to tangible results, such as working prototypes, visualisations, scenario’s and analyses. Or just clean data that allows for further processing. But the hackathons also leads to knowledge exchange, collaborate on common infrastructure, and a possibility to leverage the power of the community. For agtech providers, our hackathons also offer direct, agile and nimble contact with clients/customers, and access to creative tech talent.
In addition to the FarmHacks we also offer services in
- Start Up Support
- User Research
- Ag Tech safari’s and workshops
Start Up Support
As FarmHack we facilitate and support the initiatives that come out of our events. Sometimes hacks are immediately adopted by the market, or sometimes a team moves autonomously. When relevant, we continue to support teams in their quest for growth, by seeking investment, facilitate user research or finding partners.
Two current hacks under development:
- ‘HalloBoer!’, the AirBnB for local agrifood produce in short supply chains. They connect consumers and producers through a combination of smart logistics and rich storytelling. They got some seed funding for setting up and execute a trial. They are looking for partners and funding. Want to know more? Contact us
- Digital Eye is an IoT solution, that allows a farmer to automatically take pictures of points of interest on his plots. A camera is fitted to his machine, images are autonomously stored in the cloud. The team is looking for funding to further develop the application, AI for autonomous image content analysis and front-end development of corresponding app. Want to know more? Contact us
Despite the opportunity for developers to build valuable solutions, there are also barriers that significantly obstruct adoption of digital solutions for farm management. An important barrier is created by technology solutions imposing certain implicit requirements regarding a farmer’s level of data saviness, to collect, organize, and distribute data. Even farmers who do understand the value of data management, generally struggle with computer or web-based tools. This is a problem for many companies and startups that are developing services in this space. Through targeted user research we help them to develop a farmer first approach.
An interesting example is the web application “Boer&Bunder”, a project that came out of one of our earlier hackathons (Future Food Hack). We invested heavily in user research and UX/UI. This web app visualises open data on plot level, including crop history, soil types, average NDVI values for the fields, and other characteristics of individual plots (geoposition, acreage etc).
As of yet IT and data are dominantly looked upon for efficiency innovations. But technology will not just make it easier to manage operations and better utilize resources. They are in fact crucial enablers reducing barriers to entry, lowering cost, speeding up growth, extending reach and thereby enhancing the potential impact of business ideas. More people than ever before are using technology to develop radically new solutions. In Food and Agriculture this is especially interesting, as both consumers and farmers are being underserved by the current system.
We organise safari’s, workshops and other events to create an open learning environment and build a healthy AgTech innovation ecosystem. These events serve to share knowledge, get intel, and make valuable connections between different parts of our community. Whether is connecting farmers to potential customers, companies to tech talent or hackers to mentors and investors.
An example is the Ag Tech Safari to San Fransisco that we organised in partnership with the NOST (the Netherlands Office for Science and Technology) in 2015.
“Holy moly, how is this possible. You put some data, challengers and hackers together and it happens. Every time again. This one was a pearl however. Thanks organizers. This is it!”
"Agriculture must learn how to share, at all levels. Both the individual farmer ànd the industry as a whole. A FarmHack brings everyone together, without the dominance of commercial interests. You are free to engage in creative innovation"