From predictive analytics to IoT to robotics and image recognition, the challenge welcomes any software or hardware application that may have some functionality and value proposition along the dairy supply chain. The 10 best startups will be invited for the finals on November 20 and 21 at the Lely Campus in the Netherlands. Not only will the winning startups receive prize money of €15,000 but an opportunity for large investment and strategic support from Lely, including access to its worldwide extensive network.
Eligible startups will have at least a proof of concept or MVP. The challenge is open to entrepreneurs worldwide with a market focus preferably on Europe or North America. Applications are due October 6 and can be accessed here.
“We really should understand the problems and challenges on a dairy farm and find solutions, of which the farmer doesn’t know he or she needs them yet. That is real innovation,” Lely CEO Alexander van der Lely said in a statement announcing the challenge. “At Lely, we are always searching for technologies that we can apply in the agricultural sector. Startups are very important for our future. We devote a lot of time to develop innovations, but we cannot do this all by ourselves. There are many more new technologies coming out in the world. That’s why we really want to combine our creative energy with the creative energy of startups to find new ingenious solutions in dairy farming.”
Sometimes innovations developed within one industry can have revolutionary implications for other industries. By seeking technologies from beyond the dairy world, Lely is hoping to broaden the dairy industry’s horizons while reducing emissions and limiting resource use.
“At Rockstart, we aspire to give startups the best access possible to market, capital, community, and expertise. We believe there is a need for disruption in agriculture to build a more sustainable future, and startups play a key role in this transition. We are excited to collaborate with Lely and launch Feed the Future together, and help startups to drive positive change with a strong partner,” said Rune Theill, CEO and co-founder of Rockstart.
The Van der Lely family started their dairy technology business as a ‘studio for invention’ in 1948. It took only two generations to turn a small family business into a global pioneer and leading supplier of robotics and farm management data in dairy farming.
Currently, Lely holds 1,600 active patents protecting its inventions; it has around 57,000 active robots for multiple applications; and farmers in (over) 40 countries work with Lely solutions in the barn, on a daily basis.
“It all started on my grandfather’s dairy farm,” Alexander told AFN. “My father (Cornelis van der Lely) saw that life on a dairy farm can be hard, and the income generated was often low. That imbalance is difficult to sustain. In addition, after the Second World War, farmers had to feed the world. So, there was a real need for innovation in farming. My father was very creative and found ways to do it better.”
Today’s dairy industry is grappling with a few challenges including sustainability and labor, he explains. With fewer people choosing farming as a career and the dairy farms shuttering at an alarming rate, technology may be a way to reinvigorate not only interest but economic vitality, as well.
<Find out more about the family business Lely in a video interview with Alexander here.>
*This post was sponsored by Rockstart and Lely as part of AgFunder’s Network Partner program. Find out more here.*