“Food shortages on a global scale could become a reality in just a few decades. This means we need to be more efficient,” explains Wilco Stollenga (21), founder of Agrifly in the small town of Eppenhuizen, located in the Dutch province of Groningen. His concept revolves around aerial footages of agricultural plots of land —and the valuable data this provides.
Could you explain in more detail?
“The drones are equipped with a special camera that, among other things, is able to examine the biomass of farmland and fields. Through these measurements, we can determine the amount of photosynthesis in a crop, which in turn indicates the density and size of the crop. The images also show differences in growth and color. Farmers can use this information to take better care of their crops and increase their productivity.”
What size is the drone?
“The Agrifly drone is two meters long, which is larger than regular drones for ordinary consumers. This increases stability and lets the drone cover longer distances.”
What problem does your concept address?
“Inefficient farming. This problem is apparent when looking at the differences in profit among various farmers. The crop density differs between locations, and sometimes there is a difference in size between crops. A farmer can take advantage of this information by optimally arranging his crops and by adjusting the crop fertilization.”
What distinguishes Agrifly?
“The multiple years of experience in analysis and my familiarity with the sector through my personal background.”
Can you tell us more about your personal background?
“I grew up on a farm; my father still lives there. I am currently studying Industrial Engineering and Management in Groningen. So, I combined my personal background and my studies to set up something next to my studies: Agrifly.”
How did you initially start this concept?
“When I was eighteen, I invested in a good drone. The images were of good quality, which surprised local farmers. I started receiving requests for footage on plots of land soon after this.”
So, you just provide images?
“We do more than that. We record the images; second, we draw the right conclusions; and third is the execution and implementation phase. Agrifly doesn’t focus on the last phase, because deciding to make adjustments or not is up to the farmers. After all, the farmer is still the boss of the farmland.”
How are things now?
“My first customers in the north of the Netherlands are keeping me busy. This is an area that traditionally has many potato farms. The potato industry has a large profit margin, and there is much room for me to add value to my customers. Once I have proven this, I will start making footage of other crops and add new customers to my network. Also, I am involved in an experiment with 5G.”
Can you take us through your journey up to this point?
“When I started out, the drone was equipped with just a standard camera. After some time, I put a better camera on a small model plane. These make up the drone now. I figured out all the necessary requirements for the drone when dealing with my first customers. Things like flight time, optimal altitude and the necessary stability. All of this weighed in on my choice for my current camera and airplane.”
What challenges do you face?
“I don’t have the necessary biological knowledge of crops to build an algorithm and draw the right conclusions. So, I’m looking to collaborate with other parties and partners to fill this lack of expertise on my part. Also, scalability is an issue; I don’t have the capacity to accept a thousand requests.”
How do you plan to overcome an obstacle like scalability?
“I want to reach a point where I provide and develop technology that is easily applicable. It would run on an algorithm and automatically process the data, eventually generating an advice for the customer. But there might be a demand for different data in the near future, which I could then capitalize on. Things are developing really rapidly.”
What do you expect to see happen in the future, and when will you be satisfied?
“In the future I really want to add proven value for farmers. I will be satisfied when I’m able to show results, and when I have created something new for this sector.”
What do you expect from your participation in the Accenture Innovation Awards?
“I’m going in with an open mind, but I’m hoping to receive valuable feedback from the experts in the Nutrition theme. And hopefully get in contact with those experts. Networking is important, and this program might be a foundation for the future.”
What is your golden advice?
“Experiment, experiment, and experiment some more. Don’t sit around writing down plans and trying to attract investors. It might sound cliché, but I see more success in starting out small and scaling up from there.”