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The proposal is an introduction to an innovative measurement device that can detect deficiency or excess of nutrients in plants by harnessing light spectra

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Spectrophotometer (The proposal is an introduction to an innovative measurement device that can detect deficiency or excess of nutrients in plants by harnessing light spectra)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2018-09-30

"The problem that this project aims to address is sub-optimal fertilization. Currently, the majority of farmers in the EU and worldwide do not have access to tools that can provide a in-depth look into a plant's nutrition in a timely manner. The project, working title ""Smart Agrometer"" is aimed at solving this problem, by providing a tool and software that based on a simple spectrophotometric technology can provide instant information on what kind of macro and macro nutrients a crop plant has a deficit of excess of.

The tool would provide farmers with information on the nutrition of the plants, allow to adjust fertilization schedules and provide not only lower costs on fertilizers but as well as significantly higher yields. Furthermore, due to current fertilization strategies employed by farmers, overfertilization occurs, which causes damage to not only the soil that they grow crops in but as well to the ecosystem in general - leading to pollution and dead zones in seas and oceans. The tool, if applied consistently by farmers worldwide, would lead to an overall healthier soil, not damaged by synthetic fertilizers - plants can only take in as much fertilizer as they need with the remainder polluting the land.

The overall objectives were to
(i)understand whether there is a need in the market for such a device;
(ii) understand the potential needs of farmers and agricultural tools distributors (and establish communication with them);
(ii) to estimate the competition, potential risks and commercialization opportunities.

During the feasibility study, the team is convinced that there is a significant demand for such a product in the EU and global markets, and decided to pursue further development of the spectrophotometric device and analytical software into a commercial product, that would allow farmers to significantly increase yields, reduce pollution of soil and seas/oceans and cut costs on fertilizer expenses."
Commercial feasibility:

Estimation of potential demand, analysis of consumer needs & expectations - discussions with potential distributors, pilot presentations of the device & software. Feedback was collected from the distributors on how to improve the product to make it a more commercially feasible product. Interest on distributing the devices was confirmed by the distributors with letters of intent. The distributors defined the potential demand in their respective markets.

Estimation of potential risks - discussion with professional investors and entrepreneurs, who provided insights as to how to enter foreign markets with innovative products. The discussions allowed to determine three main risks and potential mitigation methods for the risks that will be consistently applied in the further development.

Technical feasibility:

Overall strategy for the tool development has been reviewed - the team decided to outsource production of the device to a third party, based on detailed technical specifications and create the software in-house, that would be implemented into the tool. A market ready prototype concept has been developed and is planned to be validated in phase II, with initial production and dissemination to tests users.

Analysis of competing products and tools - a detailed overview was performed of competing products in the market - NDVI measurement tools, agricultural drones, sap meters and N-Testers / N-Sensors. Advantages and disadvantages of each of the product were outlined. The team confirms, that the currently available technical tools do not provide an in-depth overview of a plant's nutrition and therefore a niche for our product exists in the market, that is not already taken over by competition.

Analysis of customer feedback - 10 pilot farms were selected to use the tool and software in the summer season of 2018. Their use was supervised by the company's experienced agronomists. The pilot tests were a success, with a majority of tests users indicating that they would be highly interested in a commercialized version of the tool. Feedback on the device and software has been selected, in order to improve the tool based on customer feedback.

Business plan development:

A business plan has been prepared, covering the following points:

Market overview - based on demand estimations from our distributors ad well as market reports
Product development strategy - based on discussions with experts, the team constructed a detailed timeline for r&d, manufacturing, software development and product release (planned on Q1 of 2020).
Overview of competition - based on the detailed analysis of competing products in the market.
Marketing and sales strategy - sales through agricultural tool distributors & direct online sales models were selected as the most commercially feasible, mitigating the risks that one sales model might be inefficient.
Financial analysis - preliminary financial forecasts have been prepared by the team, based on the estimated demand and production outputs gathered during the feasibility stage.

The overall outcome of the project is that the company decided to further pursue financing opportunities in SMEI Phase II in order to develop a commercial product that would provide the market with agricultural sustainability from lower soil pollution, higher output yields and lower fertilization costs.
The potential future impact of the product release are significant:

Lower pollution of land and waters - by enabling farmers to significantly reduce the usage of synthetic fertilizers
Higher global food supply - by optimizing the output yields of farmers
Lower fertilizer spending - would force synthetic fertilizer manufacturers to reconsider their manufacturing strategies to better meet the needs of their consumers