If you are a startup innovating in the horticulture space, there is a new guy on the block named Phil that you really ought to meet. Major horticulture company Priva recently debuted the Priva Horticulture Innovation Lab or Phil for short. Founded in 1959, the Dutch building controls company is one of the biggest and longest-standing players in the horticulture industry.
Phil has many objectives, but the core idea starts with an industry-leading corporate aiming to harness its youthful sense of exploration.
“Priva’s CEO, Meiny Prins, decided that instead of constantly reading about new digital innovation coming from startups we should, as guardians of a huge amount of data, be using it for clients in a fast and agile environment and inviting other people to work with us on big problems,” Alastair Monk, vice president of digital services at Priva, tells AFN. “And from personal experience as the founder of Motorleaf, there are a lot of very hungry and smart groups of people constantly banging on Priva customers’ doors. Our customers need to know that the people they’ve trusted with their data are also thinking and working on similar problems as those startups. We are being more vocal about the innovation that we do.”
Here’s the exciting news for startups: Phil is looking for new friends.
Through the “Friends of Phil” challenge, Priva is offering up to €25,000 ($27,130) to companies offering new technologies. The winning applicants will have the opportunity to beta test their creations with some of Priva’s clients while receiving mentorship and access to all the horticulture industry institutional knowledge that the company has to offer.
Priva is looking for state-of-the-art digital services including algorithm-based solutions around topics like yield prediction, pest/disease warning and detection, labor optimization and automated control. It’s also curious about the knowledge to still be gained around digital plant profiling through things like vision techniques, phenotyping, and digital crop registrations.
Interested startups would be well-served to review the contest criteria carefully.
“There’s no need to discuss what it will do. We want to discuss what it does right now. Then tell me what it will do on a second or third iteration,” Monk says. “We are looking for companies, not individuals, with ideas. This means at a very minimum they have raised a seed round or if they haven’t they have enough revenue to be sufficient.
The greenhouse industry is facing a number of serious challenges, Monk says, making the need for collaboration and creative thinking all the more important. Although there is no shortage of capital to back greenhouses operations or increase existing operations’ footprints, there is a lack of ready and willing labor with the green thumb savvy to succeed. Many greenhouse operators are finding that the next generation is less interested in taking over the business, for example. Sadly, this means that much of the expertise and knowledge around greenhouse operation is fading into history.
Priva has been hard at work using digital tools to address the dwindling labor pool and waning knowledgebase through Plantonomy, which already allows greenhouse growers to more than double the greenhouse area a single grower is normally able to look after. The grower intelligence dashboard is currently being tested with beta clients. You can read about one of the first growers to use Plantonomy, Mike Flux, here.
“At Phil, we are about as close to a real startup as you will find in a 500-person company,” Monk says. “We are very much a bunch of coders, designers, and data scientists–not your traditional horticulture multinational. We are going to be welcoming agtech companies to a sandbox environment this year where we will open the door to a new network with a self-service style environment where you can build products and integrate and where we can see which ones work best with the least friction.”
Apply to Friends of Phil here by March 16.
*This post was sponsored by Priva under the AgFunder Network Partner program. Find out more here.*
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