Despite the ongoing debate of whether it's a fruit or a vegetable, the avocado has been an export hit around the globe. Avocados are grown in the southern hemisphere but are immensely popular in countries where they cannot be harvested. There is also growing consumer awareness that intensive avocado farming leads to environmental issues in the countries of origin.
'Driving through the rural areas of Chile, you will notice how severely the country has been going through a major drought during the last five to seven years,' Nikita Gulin says. 'Part of it is due to climate change, but it cannot be denied that intensive farming is adding to the problem.' Chile's GDP relies heavily on agriculture. Apart from avocados, food crops include blueberries, cherries, and walnuts. 'Water efficiency is a huge topic for Chilean farmers and the country as a whole.'
For Gulin, Aganimo's Russian-born founder and CEO, and his Chilean co-founder, CTO Sergio Esteban, this was an obvious problem to tackle.
'In Chile, everybody knows someone working in the agricultural sector, whether it's an uncle or the friend of a friend,' Esteban says. 'When we looked at the problem and solutions already available, it became clear that there was much room for improvement by means of technology - and we had the skills to do that.'
To combine their technical knowledge with research on agriculture, they made contact with academia. 'The University of Chile immediately wanted to collaborate,' Gulin says. Agranimo has 10 employees located in Chile, Russia, and Germany with backgrounds in technology, research, and practical experience in agriculture.
'Chile is not the only country with this problem,' Gulin explains, 'It's really all over the world - water is rare. From our first application for water efficiency, our vision grew as we expanded to more climate-related issues. Water is still one of the key components, but we are now working with any information that can be derived from climate and soil data.'
From the Field Into One Data Warehouse
Esteban explains: 'Basically, we connect a lot of sensors together into one system to provide field managers with crop-specific information. Some of those sensors we actually manufacture ourselves, some are third-party. The sensors are sending information to the cloud, where we try to combine information from different sources. We collect plant-relevant information and provide the industry with climate analytics or what we call climate intelligence.'
Agranimo is working with large producers of fruit and vegetables that source their crops all over the world. The basic idea is to support field managers and commercial teams in decision-making.
'This includes irrigation, disease management, such as whether to apply fungicide or pesticide, frost damage assessment, and harvest forecasting,' Gulin explains. 'With this set of indicators, we also assess the later stages of the supply chain: export, import, distribution, and retail. They all have to know what they can expect from the coming harvest. And with a drive toward traceability and sustainability, consumers are also demanding more understanding of how the field where their avocados come from is being managed.'
Growing Impact With SAP
Very early in their journey, Agranimo's founders came to regard SAP as a potential partner. 'Integration with SAP was on our mind right away, because a lot of companies use SAP's applications - and so do our customers,' Gulin says.
Once in contact with SAP Germany, the SAP.iO Foundries program looked like a natural fit. 'It seemed like a more straightforward pathway to integration, so we applied,' Gulin says. Agranimo was accepted into the SAP.iO Foundry Berlin in March 2020 as part of the Industry 4.0 cohort.
Miroslav Dimitrov, head of SAP.iO Foundry Berlin, says: 'The demand for avocado and other intensive food crops are causing substantial environmental damages and has led to biodiversity loss, extreme weather conditions, and, in some cases, villages losing access to clean water. By tackling this issue, Agranimo is really having an impact to improve people's lives. We at SAP.iO absolutely want to support that.'
A Window to the Customer: SAP Business Technology Platform
At the time, the startup program within SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) was scouting for high-potential startups that could grow faster by using the unified, business-centric, open platform. Agranimo was invited to join the program and accepted.
'This program was brand-new at the time,' shares Liga Bronowski, program manager for adoption activities for SAP Business Technology Platform. 'Agranimo was one of our pilot startups.'
The startup program targets startups that are already collaborating with SAP, including those in an accelerator cohort within SAP.iO Foundries. 'The overall goal of the program is to increase the adoption of SAP Business Technology Platform,' Bronowski says.
'We offer SAP BTP to chosen, promising, enterprise-relevant startups that can have massive impact for our customers,' explains Upen Barve, co-founder and business owner of the program. 'They get up to €50,000 worth of cloud credits, and they can decide how to spend that to get full benefit of SAP BTP as they progress and grow.'
With these investments, he says, SAP BTP can help startups to scale their dream and become enterprise-grade with access to the powerful technology portfolio, community, and the SAP ecosystem of customers and partners. 'Continuous enablement and expert support are key to joint success, and we are proud to have Agranimo and SAP taking significant steps together toward a sustainable future.'
The program offers two options for startups; they can either build their own services from scratch on SAP BTP so that they are compatible with SAP products right away, or use the SAP technology stack to integrate their existing solution into SAP, as Agranimo did.
Gulin says, 'Working with the SAP BTP team, we covered the integration of our solution with SAP Analytics Cloud. We're still in the process of interfacing our solutions with what SAP systems our customers use. As a startup, we had our focus on immediate cash flow-generating activities. Collaboration with SAP on the other hand, is a long-term project. We think of this as an investment to help us scale.'
He's pleased with the progress: 'We've received a lot of personalized attention; we've never had the situation that a question of ours went unanswered. I would definitely recommend it to other startups.'