How Agricultural Startup Agroop Aims To Drive Portugal’s Farmers

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The poem that describes Portugal as “Europe’s garden near the sea planted” (“A Portugal” by Tomás Ribeiro) is the best way to introduce you to the agricultural side of this city:

Portugal is a country with lower-than-average per capita income compared to other EU countries, thus having an impact on rapid growth. Most of the times companies that need to evolve rapidly start to go global, otherwise they would take a slow speed to achieve a stable level, but being slow costs time and – as we all know – in business time is money, positive or negative (assets or liabilities).

During 1998 and 2001 Portugal enjoyed strong economic growth (above EU average), this can be partly justified because of the adoption of Euro currency and Expo ‘98 which brought lots of investments. In 2003 the economy was officially in recession.

Agriculture: Another Sector For Portugal To Compete In

As we can see in terms of growth rate not much happened or improved after the adoption of the Euro. Perhaps this can be explained by the value of the Euro that makes it hard for Portugal to compete because we don’t have the massive industrial production that other European countries have. It’s like giving a homeless man a fine gold bar without doubting he has cash but he can’t handle the weight because he doesn’t have the strength to hold it.

Taking into account that Portugal is in the European Union and suffers the same volatility as the other countries from the EU plus political and social-economic panorama, consequently this can generate big risk aversion. In terms of capital market (and not money market) we are less mature compared to other EU countries, so we need investment (lots of it) and certainly – if well worked out – there is a higher than average return for any investor.

In other words, I see Portugal as an emerging market that has to make its economy work. Investments must be made in core areas that the country is already good at, these are for example tourism, manufacturing and gastronomy among other industries, but the one that got me personally interested to write this article was agriculture, more precisely a startup called Agroop.

Tracking Farmer Activity To Lower Costs

Agroop first appeared in April of 2013, with the aim to revolutionize agriculture by producing more efficiently at a lower cost. The mobile app and web service the startup provides tracks a farmer’s activity and notifies them of their activities and respective saving costs thus coming closer to achieving their goal.

Some giant companies are already making moves towards what is currently called smart agriculture: Microsoft invested in Monsanto (American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation) with the objective of “feasible innovative ideas for new digital tools that could be applied to augment agricultural production”; also Qualcom was interested in that fund and in other news we can see Qualcom invested on drones to improve the agricultural processes. Just two weeks ago Monsanto was acquired by Bayer valuated in 66 billion Dollars.

Technology As A Main Ressource

Agroop knows about the role technology can play in agriculture and their vision is very interesting, but they are currently focused on their main mission that to build an edaphoclimatic machine learning system that works as a support for decision-making and helps farmers pinpoint several agronomic, technical and meteorological indicators that can contribute heavily to cost reduction and an increase in productivity, by improving operational procedures as well as saving essential resources, like water and energy.

This solution is composed by two products, Agroop Operacional (managing) and Stoock (tracking). The both combined are revolutionary because Agroop Operacional receives data related to production and the operation of farmer’s, Stoock on the other hand detects physical parameters – and all numbers are crunched in one system.

The result is interoperability between operational and physical variables that in a short period of time disclose the critical factors that increase or decrease agriculture production, in details related with irrigation, fertilization, treatments, plagues, climatic conditions, production costs, and many others… All developed in a scalable way.

In 2015 Agroop launched their first crowd-funding campaign on Seedrs and became the first Portuguese startup able to complete it successfully. Meanwhile they’ve ended another one with success, summing up to 170.000€ in exchange for 10.6% of equity, which translates in a valuation of 1,6M €.

Agriculture needs Agroop in order to save costs by cutting waste and improving production quality. Their target audience are farmers with years of experience thus knowing very well what to produce how. Optimizing this process by joining the knowledge of the past with the technological state of the art, farmers are better prepared for changes in their industry that are hard to predict.

“Agriculture needs Agroop” and Humanity needs Agriculture according to UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). By 2050 the world’s population will reach 9 billion habitants, thus an increase of food needs of 70% in next 34 years is expected. This will require an increase of production and due to global warming water resources will be more scarce which will require better management of water and energy too.




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