September 12, 2019
This month we celebrate our 5th anniversary and so much has happened since our founding. In this interview with our CEO Jurg van Vliet, we look back at 30MHz’s achievements and forward to what we aim to do for the agricultural ecosystem and the world.
How would you describe 30MHz in a single tweet?
30MHz provides a data platform to digitalize indoor agriculture. One platform with which we aim to digitalize the entire industry. Farmers and growers can create a digital representation of their environment and the industry itself (i.e. distributors, consultants, researchers) can digitalize their different products.
How did it all start and why?
30MHz started as a big data platform and we added sensors to collect the data. The founders of 30MHz, Jasper Geurtsen, Flavia Paganelli, Fleur van Vliet and myself, first founded 9apps together, which is a provider of cloud-based infrastructures. We started 30MHz in 2014. Flavia is my wife, Jasper is my best friend and Fleur is my sister. We’ve been working together now for at least 10 years.
At the beginning, we had customers from many different sectors, incl. smart office, smart industry and smart farming. But we found that we had the most impact in the agriculture sector, so we decided to focus solely on this industry and started to specialize our services and products.
What‘s the status quo and what have you achieved so far?
30MHz currently employs 35 people. We have more than 300 customers in more than 30 countries, in all continents but Antarctica. Our services and products are geared toward various segments of the indoor agriculture sector, from sophisticated Dutch greenhouses to polytunnels to vertical farms. It’s all possible. We are integrating our platform with different data points and sources from those environments, like climate control systems, irrigation systems and other third-party sensors. The next step for us is to elevate our multi-functional platform to digital agriculture, so that farmers and growers have a full and structured digital representation of their environments.
30MHz is growing rapidly and has recently received a large amount of funding. What are you currently focusing and working on?
We are currently focusing on shifting from just selling products to becoming a provider of services, tools and support for farmers and growers to digitalize their environments. We call this digital agriculture. We decided to move from a hardware subscription model to a services model. Meaning that customers don’t have to buy the hardware anymore. We will provide them with an all-in-one solution and the support that they need, including data from integration partners and the hardware necessary to achieve their goals. In order to offer the best possible solutions, we are looking for more and more integration partners. We want to help them further digitalize their business with our platform, so that we can offer more value and more simplified solutions to farmers and growers worldwide.
Where will 30MHz be in 2-3 years?
Well, the question is if we will still fit in our current office by then.
Our ambition is to digitalize the entire indoor agriculture industry. We feel that with this ambition we’ll have the most impact. In order to fulfill this ambition, we need to collaborate with every technology provider in the indoor agriculture industry to digitalize their products and services. So that our customers can use the digital versions of these products to optimize their business. To make that concrete, a grower has a climate control system, an irrigation system, pest management tools and strategies, a growth plan, etc., and all these elements of their operation are being supported by different tools and consultants. We want to bring everything online to take the industry to the next level.
We want to make it easy for every farmer or grower to start digitalizing their business, no matter where they start. They should be able to get the support and tools they need to make it happen. That’s why we are here. And that’s why we want to have every product category on our platform. We want to have the data of these different product categories working together in a more sophisticated growth model. In two to three years we should be able to offer ways to transform the low-tech environments into more high-tech. For example, a polytunnel grower should have access to simple digital tools to produce in a similar way as a Dutch style greenhouse grower.
Why is digitalizing the indoor agriculture industry so important?
By digitalizing indoor agriculture businesses and combining all data in one single platform, they will be able to work more efficiently and accurately. It will help them produce more of better quality with less input.
Many agriculture businesses are scaling up. There are a few big trends driving the need to scale up. One is urbanization and a second is rising income. Globally, more and more people are getting out of poverty. That means diets are shifting from low nutritious foods to high nutritious foods, with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. So the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables is rising. A lot of which are grown in greenhouses. The more greenhouses there are, the more can be produced. With the right digital tools, indoor agriculture businesses can have one grower running three greenhouses in three different locations.
A third major trend is climate change. We face a threat on our existing system and there’s also the challenge of fixing what is broken. If you look at agriculture, it comes with a lot of problems that are not contained. Outdoor agriculture is directly influencing nature as we know it. If you go inside, you have a controlled environment. If you have a controlled environment, you can control what goes in and what goes out. Therefore, your impact on the environment can be much less. I believe that indoor agriculture is eventually better for our planet.