Novi Sad-based InoSens introducing IT solutions to agriculture: Serbian engineers developing Uber for agronomic services

The human population is growing and there are predictions which say that the number of people on the planet will reach 10 billion in 2050, which means that the identical amount of arable land will have to be sufficient for the needs of a far larger number of people.

 

If, in addition to this, the threat of the global warming is considered, as well as that of water shortage, the humanity will have a lot of difficulty producing a sufficient amount of food.

It’s clear to us in InoSens that, in the future, it won’t be possible to feed people with the state of agriculture as it is today. It seems that we are not the only ones who believe this, since the companies which work on developing technologies for the application in agriculture are drawing more and more interest from investors throughout the world, starting with the Silicon Valley, which is investing more and more capital in such activities – says Maja Zikic of InoSens for eKapija.

She points out that, locally, Vojvodina is an ideal place for the overlap between agriculture and information technologies (IT). InoSens wishes to meld the creative approach to doing business with the advantages of the region “in order to develop disruptive technologies for the new economy of food and agricultural products”.

The company was founded by a small team of scientists and business people with over 15 years of international experience. They built the company using their own resources and soon earned the trust of clients and the European Commission. Our growth is 100% organic and hasn’t been contributed to by external investments nor loans – eKapija’s interviewee states and points out that InoSens currently employs seven talented people and plans to expand the team and open new job positions soon.

 

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Innovative farmers

Agricultural innovations have so far mostly pertained to chemical fertilizer formulas, pesticides or genetic engineering. Farmers, especially younger ones, who are familiar with ICT are starting to use technology to an increasingly greater extent in order to collect data from the fields and analyze it, thereby optimizing the growth conditions. By analyzing information, they can get a clearer picture of the health of their crops, get warnings of potential problems, as well as learn how to implement fertilizers, pesticides and water more efficiently.

The technologies also help the farmers reach the customers in the cities directly, removing the need for mediators. The so-called short supply chains are so positioned that they meet the expectations of the urban populace regarding quality, which is being recognized – 9 out of 10 Europeans agree that local food is good for them. The internet, mobile technologies and advanced robotics have the potential to connect farmers with consumers, and we can offer the solution which suits both sides – farmers can secure a sustainable income for themselves, and consumers can enjoy top quality food of local origin – Maja Zikic explains.

InoSens offers three main types of innovative solutions in the area of agriculture – those that help farmers optimize the production, like the IoT (Internet of Things) technology, solutions which help farmers reach as many customers as possible and improve the sale of their products (robotics) and those based on ICT, which make the services provided by the public sector in the domain of food and agriculture, such as subsidies, more transparent and efficient.

Our main target group are innovative farmers and their associations, large companies across the food and agriculture industry, as well as public sector institutions. So far, we have mostly worked with clients outside of Serbia – in Spain, Great Britain, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey. Thanks to our solutions, farmers are able to produce more while investing less and to improve the sale.

 

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European projects as a confirmation of excellence

InoSens is more than aware that the development of technologies is one thing and reaching customers quite another. This is why they invest in target marketing activities in order to show farmers the benefits of their solutions, but also in activities which will help them better understand farmers’ needs. They are raising awareness of the importance of applying IT solutions in agriculture by cooperating with the best partners throughout Europe, making user-friendly technologies and working on developing solutions “with the clients, not for them”.

Our company is very well positioned when it comes to European projects. We are currently involved in five large projects withing the Horizon 2020 program, of which RECAP is one. Our experiences are more than positive. Thanks to our active participation, we have expanded our network, gained access to advanced developing technologies and become visible in European markets. We see European projects as a leverage, both financially and in terms of marketing, and since we operate in a developing market, we need the confirmation of excellence by the European Commission in order to convey our message through value chains – our interviewee says.

 

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Maja Zikic notes that, although it’s tempting for the company to become complacent with what it has accomplished in the past two years, InoSens is more than aware than they are only beginning. “We know that numerous challenges lie ahead, and we are prepared to further invest in our capacities. The global environment is on our side, but that’s not enough. We need to continue to grow and to expand the market in order to materialize our vision”.

The main challenge that InoSens has faced so far pertains to adjusting their ambitious vision to the current economic crisis, which prevents investments in technology, both regionally and on a European level. Nevertheless, they remain optimistic, because they firmly believe that solutions based on advanced technologies will define the food and agriculture industry in the future.

We’ve just started developing the first European platform for trading services in the area of precision agriculture (Uber for agronomic services based on ICT), and we are also investing in two fresh technologies. The first is a click-and-collect system for food and agriculture products, based on robotics. It allows farmers to deliver their products to customers in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Also, we are working on applying the so-called blockchain technologies in various areas, like determining the origin of a product, monitoring of agricultural machinery and such – Maja Zikic concludes.

 

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on eKapija by Marko Andrejic

 

 

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Vojvodina ICT Cluster

Vojvodina ICT Cluster