GrainSense has developed the world’s first fully functioning, patent protected handheld device for grain protein measurement.
GrainSense’s innovative handheld device is capable of measuring the protein, moisture, oil and carbohydrate content of grain, cereals and other crops in the field. Max Schulman, chairman of the Cereals and Oilseeds Working Group in Copa-Cogeca and advisor of cereals and oil seeds, Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), says: “These are key determinants of harvest value and processing cost.”
The device is battery powered, requires only a few grains and takes just seconds for each measurement, with no preparation needed. This allows farmers, seed producers and plant breeders for the first time to rapidly measure, in the field, the key parameters of their crops and make decisions which improve the profitability. The device also allows meat producers to control and adjust the protein content of animal feed in real time, which can have a significant impact on profitability.
The device is equipped with GPS and wireless internet connection in order to enable connection to value added services such as Big Data and software products, which will improve productivity.
Need for increased protein supply from grain
“Globally, protein is becoming the most valuable part of the primary production, from food to feed. The growing middle class in Asia, in a population of around 3.2 billion, are changing their food habits from strictly vegetarian to more meat-based. This will dramatically change the demand for more protein at world level,” Schulman explains.
Grain is currently the number one protein source for feed within the EU; and it is most likely that this will be the status in the midterm future as well. That is why farmers and all the other players inside the chain need to make sure that protein is being used as efficiently as possible. This puts a high pressure on segregation at farm level, at first pick-up level, and at the end storage, processing and consumption levels.
A €1bn market
GrainSense is addressing an existing market made up of laboratory analysers and services, moisture sensors and software. Until now, the market has been ruled by big companies, the industry and related organisations, with sufficient resources. Price on grain, as most often is the case, is set by the big players in the market. The agricultural sector is fairly old fashioned worldwide and relies on stiff structures; the sector is therefore not seen as very transparent.
The chemical composition of crops is a major driver in their value per tonne. By measuring the exact protein content of – for example – grain in different fields, farmers can maximise the blend of their grain to ensure it has the highest revenue yielding protein content when sold. A 1% increase in the protein levels of grain can affect the price by €20+ per tonne. Farmers are looking to deploy technologies that can help them to achieve the highest yield from their crops.
Farmers, industry business experts have all given very positive responses to the device and support an entry sales price of a few thousand euros. The main identified customers are grain farms, animal farms, and the grain and feed industry. The market for GrainSense’s device is €500m per annum in the EU alone, with an addressable market of at least 700,000 farms of at least 50 hectares or more. The global potential would be over €1bn.
Compared to current laboratory services (using wet chemistry and/or optical desktop analysers), the GrainSensor handheld device:
- Eliminates need to send samples by mail and then wait;
- Enables real time sorting at the grain dryer, thereby increasing revenue;
- Saves energy at the dryer (more accurate moisture measurement);
- Optimises operations through much more frequent protein and oil measurements;
- Reduces weather risk (the ability to measure wet or ‘green’ kernels supports decision making during harvest season);
- Simplifies inter-farm trading (a growing trend);
- Gives negotiating power to the farmer when selling; and
- In the long term, provides a means to prove environmental compliance (such as by minimising fertiliser runoff).
Funding and the future
GrainSense secured €1.4m in funding in February 2016, supplemented by a development loan from Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. GrainSense, which is an optical device spinoff company of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, is seeking to exploit its €1bn+ potential on the worldwide markets with a cloud-based service offering and handheld device that give farmers greater control over the quality, cost and pricing of their crops.
“With our unique concept, we will empower farmers to produce more crops of higher quality, while adding transparency to the overall grain business. We are excited about having the potential to affect the lives and wellbeing of millions of people,” says Edvard Krogius, CEO of GrainSense.
“With this product, and related services and new applications, we are able to promote Finland as one of the most innovative nations in the agriculture ecosystem globally. We will bring transparency in what is today still a very old fashioned and rigid industry, where monopolies rule the market.”
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