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Digital Agriculture for Sustainable Food Systems

an EIT Food and LfL Challenge powered by Siemens

2021
2022

The story

Europe aims to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. In 2021, climate protection and sustainability are at the center of the European Commission’s political agenda. Measures following the European Green Deal target the promotion of sustainable agriculture and aim to restore biodiversity as well as to reduce the use of chemical plant protection by 50% and synthetic fertilizers by 20%. In order to adapt to this new regulatory framework, we need to support farmers as well as innovative entrepreneurs in developing solutions to adapt to the challenges ahead.

Together with our partners, the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture (LfL) and Siemens, we asked ourselves two questions:

  • How can we bundle competences and resources in order to support farmers in adapting to the Challenges ahead?
  • How can we create an ecosystem of innovation in order to support Europe’s best AgTech entrepreneurs in testing and validating their solutions on the ground?

This is why we launched the Challenge: Digital Agriculture for Sustainable Food Systems, an EIT Food and LfL Challenge powered by Siemens.

From September – December 2021 we were looking for the best pan-European AgTech entrepreneurs (robotics, sensors, IoT, AI) that contribute to the goal:

Optimization and reduction of chemical and synthetic inputs for plant production to improve biodiversity, soil and water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions

With 29 applications from all over Europe, our expert jury had the task to find the three teams that get the chance to test and validate their solutions on the ground and receive various benefits during the pilot phase in Ruhstorf in 2022. The experts evaluating the applications and selecting the teams best suited to participate in the Challenge were:

-Max Brandes, Agribusiness Expert at Rentenbank

-Dr. Markus Demmel, Vice-Director of LfL Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Animal Husbandry

-Philip Eggers, CEO of Eggers Landmaschinen

-Dr. Thomas Engel, Technology Innovation Strategy Manager at John Deere

-Walter Haefeker, Honorary President of the European Professional Beekeepers Association

-Dr. Christa Hoffmann, Consultant for Digital Transformation in AgTech at oeconos GmbH

-Isabella Regina Karl, Managing Director of the Bavarian Young Farmers‘ Association

-Georg Mayerhofer, Local Farmer and Winner of CERES-Award “German Farmer of the Year” 2017

-Lena Ranneberg, Innovation Manager at Agro Innovation Lab GmbH

-Dr. Georg von Wichert – Head of Autonomous Systems and Control at Siemens

These are the winnning teams for the Pilot Phase in Ruhstorf

PAAWR (Ukraine) EIT Food Seedbed Alumni
PAAWR offers fully autonomous, chemical-free agriculture based on artificial intelligence. Using a high-density precision microwave module, the autonomous mobile robot analyzes and clears weeds at an early stage of their growth. This reduces the use of herbicides and pesticides by up to 99%, increases yields by up to 40% and reduces treatment costs by up to 50%.

Vivent (Switzerland) EIT Food RisingFoodStars Alumni 2021
Vivent helps farmers gain insight into how plants communicate their "state of health" and how they respond to changes in environmental conditions or to pest and disease attacks. Our sensors detect and analyze the electrical signals emitted by plants to quickly identify their responses to changes in the environment. Our products are designed to help growers optimize growing conditions while reducing inputs.

Dahlia Robotics (Germany)
Dahlia Robotics develops an autonomous robot for mechanical weed removal. With this solution, farmers can reduce the use of herbicides without the need for time-consuming and expensive manual labor. The robot uses an AI-based optical system to guide the tools precisely to the weeds without damaging the crop. Solar-powered autonomous navigation allows farmers to focus on value-added activities while reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.

What's the timeline?

  • Feb 23 – 25, 2022: Softlanding Session 1 in Ruhstorf an der Rott
    The teams will get to know the area and meet their mentors. Milestones for the Challenge will be defined.
  • April 4 - 6, 2022: Softlanding Session 2 in Ruhstorf an der Rott
    Work on the fields, further networking sessions and workshops on site.
  • May 30 - June 1, 2022: Softlanding Session 3 in Rufstorf an der Rott
    Last work on the fields and preparation for the final Demo Day (networking event with farmers, industry players and press representatives). The winner team will receive a prize money of 10.000,- Euro.

What’s new?

Session 3 completed (May 30 - June 1, 2022)

The third and final session was fully focused on getting ready for the Demo Day. Next to a startup-corporate workshop with Dr. Christoph Mandl of EIT Food and the opportunity to talk Tina Cleffmann of BayWa, our teams received a personal workshop to optimize their pitches. Before the big day, we carved out some time for the press to get a good shot of our teams.

On the final day, the teams participated along with other ag-tech manufacturers in the LfL Field Day to present their technology in front of around 250 farmers and farmers-to-be (i.e., students of agriculture). Even the Head of Office of the Bavarian State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry, Hubert Bittlmayer, was present! Following the on-field presentations, the group moved back to Siemens Technopark Ruhstorf’s HALLE 01. Here, the teams pitched before an expert jury in the final competition fort he prize money of 10,000€.

The experts evaluating our teams‘ progress and contribution to the Challenge topic of pesticide reduction were

  • Ursula Fritzmeier, Managing Director of Fritzmeier Umwelttechnik​
  • Veronika Hannus, Business Manager of Food Startup Incubator Weihenstephan at HSWT
  • Thomas Muhr, Founder and Co-Managing Director of geokonzept
  • Dr. Stefan Neser, Director of LfL Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Animal Husbandry
  • Alois Penninger, Local Farmer and winner of CERES-Award in the category „Manager 2018​"
  • Dr. Georg Schirrmacher, Director of EIT Food CLC Central
  • Dr. Christina Toigo, Founder of Christina Toigo Consulting​

​ It was a tight call in the end, but the winner of the first Challenge Digital Agriculture for Sustainable Food Systems is Vivent from Switzerland! We congratulate not only the winning team, but all three teams who put in so much effort to be selected for participation in the first place and to make the most of the activities we prepared.

Session 2 completed (April 4-6, 2022)

Roughly six weeks after the first session, we welcomed our teams in Ruhstorf again. And this session started with an event that was special already because of the number of attendees: around 60 experts from farming, environmental protection agencies and NGOs, corporates, and the start-up ecosystem, just to name a few, came Lower Bavaria for a day to analyze our three teams‘ business cases and offer their opinion. In cooperation with the Bavariaten State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry, we were thus able to provide the teams with a full range of useful input and new contacts. Following this in-depth analysis, Giovanni from Dahlia Robotics, Vitaliy from PAAWR, and Marina and Moritz from Vivent had a lively exchange with Martha Wenzel from e-terry and Robin Mink from SAM Dimension on their start-up experience in the German ag tech market. While there was a lot of laughter and friendly chatting, our teams were able to recognize a lot of shared struggles in their different paths to changing agricultural technology.

Additional input on financial matters, from funding rounds to technologies eligible for farmer funding and setting up a company in Bavaria, rounded off the input sessions. Philipp Rittershaus of the Hanover accelerator RootCamp, Martin Brunnhuber from the Ministry of Agriculture, Katharina Kees from the Ministry of Economy, and Markus Schilling from BayStartUp provided great insights on where to get support for starting off in Bavaria.

The final and rather unique point on the agenda was a visit at the local Energy Technology Center, satellite research center of the University of Applied Sciences Landshut, with a focus on energy storage. This point is particularly interesting to our teams as all of their technologies require some sort of battery to run continuously in the field. The researchers presented their topics and their laboratories, taking a lot of time to answer our teams‘ detailed questions as they themselves were very much interested in the technologies.

Session 1 completed (Feb 23-25, 2022)

In February we could finally kick-off the onsite sessions in Ruhstorf an der Rott. Giovanni from Dahlia Robotics GmbH, Moritz from Vivent and Alex from PAWWR joined the partners from EIT Food, LfL and Siemens to get to know the area, visit their testing fields and to define their individual milestones for the Challenge. Of course, the three days of the first onsite session in Bavaria were full of virtual in live insight sessions about the German AgTech market and farmers and their needs in Germany. The sessions were held by various research and industry players from our partner network such as Rudolf Sollacher from Siemens Technologies, Nicolas Schmid from John Deere, Andreas Gabriel from LfL,Thea Gherdan, sales coach for AgTech startups.

The teams also had their first introductions to their chosen sparring partners including:

  • AgTech industry experts such as Dr. Thilo Steckl (ClAAS E-Systems GmbH), Nico Schmidt (John Deere), Thea Gherdan (Thefitgroup), Philipp Eggers (Eggers Landmaschinen), Dr. Christa Hoffmann (oeconos GmbH), Dr. Stefan Meldau (KWS Saat), Alexander Niehus (KTBL) and LLR Rechtsanwälte mbB (lawyers specialized in data protection and information technology)
  • Research experts in AgriTech such as Veronika Hannus (HSWT), Anna Maria Molitor and Andreas Gabriel and Stefan Kopfinger (LfL)
  • EIT Food Startup Network partners such as Dr. Philipp Rittershaus (Rootcamp), Andreas Schweikert (bitkom e.V.)

On top of that, each team had the chance to pitch their solution to selected media partners in order to widen their visibility within the German AgTech market.

What’s next?

We look forward to staying in touch with our teams to witness the progress in the time to come. Vivent will return to Ruhstorf a few more times in 2022 as they are taking advantage of the test fields provided by LfL also for the remainder of the vegetation period. If you’re an agtech start-up looking a place to test your technology, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Project partners

Project lead

Spykmann Olivia 2

Olivia Spykman

Project Partner Lead

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