In six years, they grew from a start-up to a global player. The French company Sencrop has now supplied 20,000 mainly European farmers and growers with weather stations in 26 countries. In the Netherlands, 800 farmers and growers use the company’s services. With a recent $ 18 million capital injection from a group of investors, including Israeli venture capitalist JVP and European EIT Food, the company is now seeking to expand its wings, including in the United States. With this, Sencrop shows how fast business growth can go in the world of high-tech and (agricultural) data. The head office is located in Lille.
Director and co-founder Martin Ducroquet (48) is a farmer’s son from northern France, an area where agriculture dominates. Co-founder Michael Bruniaux comes from the world of technology. They started their business in 2016. Start-up capital of $ 1.4 million enabled the initial growth. In 2019, they raised an additional $ 10 million from investors. Four years ago, they were still new to Wageningen UR’s annual F&A Next trade fair. Now they belong to the established order of tech companies in the agricultural sector.
Sencrop delivers weather systems according to a simple business model that looks the same in all countries. Data on things like precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind speed, dew point and solar radiation can be consulted in an app. And they can be linked to (consultant) services from other companies. The idea is that a combination of all kinds of local data on weather, soil conditions and insects will lead to better crop management.
General manager Martin Ducroquet on the purpose of his business: “Modern farmers and breeders face many challenges. They need to produce more but also be greener, with less input of raw materials, less water, less energy and so on. Agriculture must therefore also be smarter. Thanks to technology, this is also possible. We provide the technology and tools, advisers can then help with the decisions farmers and growers make about their crops and the measures they can take. “
The breeder can get started himself
This means that Sencrop has a different business model than many other players in precision agriculture. No integrated advisory function, only data producing devices. Which a breeder himself can get started with, or which can be connected to equipment and models from other parties. It also provides the opportunity to collaborate with several different systems and parties. In the Netherlands, for example. Agrifirm, Agrea and CZAV.
How does the growth of the French company fit in today? Ducroquet: “There are two important trends in agriculture: Digitization and an environmentally oriented transition. European farmers are technically well-versed. We want to offer them tools to better manage local factors and local risks. It is of value to all parties in the chain. Advisers benefit from better data, as do farmers. Exchanging data is good for everyone! “
Not afraid of data misuse
Ducroquet strongly opposes the idea that data sharing is at the expense of the breeder. Sencrop itself does not profit from the data, he assures, that it is not the business model. He is also not afraid of misuse of the data. “This is weather data, not sensitive data. And growers are getting more back than they are giving away. They just want to know more about local risk factors for their crops.”
Data controls the chain from two sides, he says. “From the consumer side, you see that supermarkets, for example, are very busy managing with data, blockchains, traceability, harvest information. A lot is already happening there. We start from the other side, with the manufacturer. I am not saying that it is lagging behind the other side of the chain, but that there are now opportunities for connections. Look at major food manufacturers like McCain in combination with McDonalds, which include soil care and sustainable production in their delivery terms. All kinds of data are needed for this. Think of it as an ecosystem where different parties work. With our weather data, we form one layer throughout the system. “
The promise that one grows much better with data has existed for years, but in practice there is still great skepticism. Does it work now? Ducroquet: “Of the 20,000 farmers and growers we serve, 10,000 have access to our app every day. I can not provide clearer evidence that the interest is there.”
Surprisingly, the Frenchman does not offer great prospects for data-driven agriculture. “We do not have harvest forecasts yet.” He keeps it more modest. “What do we bring the farmer? First of all: daily planning, good planning and thus time savings. The data gives you insight into when to act, but also: when not. Second, more efficient use of input. In relatively intensive crops such as fruit , onions and potatoes, it is often possible to save 30 to 40%. It is about connecting weather data with decision-making tools. “
Sencrop gets money from an Israeli investor Dacom passed into Israeli hands last year. It can hardly be a coincidence? Ducroquet: “There is no coordination behind it, they are different players. But it is no coincidence that Israel has a prominent place in precision agriculture as well as in irrigation. It’s a real start-up country. They are at the forefront of the development of agritech. There is an agreement with the Netherlands. They are both small countries in an environment with a lot of pressure on agriculture. As a result, they are very technically oriented. For that reason, the Netherlands was the first country where we started outside of France. The Dutch are a lot technically savvy and they want a return on their investment. “
Embracing new techniques takes place in phases. “First you have early adaptersthat technically savvy farmers. Then follow partnerships and cooperatives, and then comes the rest. Dutch and French farmers are somewhat ahead in this regard. And now there is an acceleration. Large companies will encourage farmers to run more precision farming. Many cooperatives and trade organizations want to develop new services for farmers, advise them personally and thus forge a bond. And the one who moves first will also be the first and most likely to reap the benefits. ”