Meet the people behind Feed the Future

Feed the Future is a Lely innovation initiative designed to connect with startups in the agritech industry. It’s all about revolutionizing the dairy industry with new technologies and providing startups with access to the sector, through potential investment and collaboration with Lely. We are very excited for all of the upcoming activities that will take place in 2021 and beyond, and we’re even more excited to share a few insights with you from our team! 

We sat down with the three masterminds behind Feed the Future: Jannet de Jong (Startup Program Manager), Martijn Boelens (CTO of Lely), and Andre van Troost (CEO of Lely). Keep reading if you want to know what they have to say about innovation, what to expect from the farming sector in the next several years, and the magic ingredients we look for in startups.

Innovation: it’s in our DNA

At Lely, we view innovation as more than market trends. Innovation is in our DNA! Since our establishment in 1948, invention has been at the heart of our company culture. In fact, the business started out as a “studio for invention”, and it was there that we developed the milking robot – now considered one of the most important inventions of the 20th century for dairy farmers.

Feed the Future was designed specifically with this forward-thinking attitude in mind. “At Lely, we have a strong focus on the future of farming and are looking for different ways of bringing dairy farming to a profitable, enjoyable and sustainable future,” says Martijn Boelens, CTO of Lely. “We can not do everything ourselves, the Feed the Future event helps us in finding bright minds and startup’s, and so possibly filling gaps in our own portfolio.”

The future of farming

Maintaining an innovative culture means always keeping an eye on the future. We achieve this through our various activities, such as the Feed the Future Hackathon and the Feed the Future Startup Challenge, but it also means understanding the current landscape of the industry and always thinking ahead to future developments. What can we expect to see in the farming sector in the next 5 years? Or the next 10?

“The farming sector will see a (strong) move to more sustainable and more traceable farming,” predicts Martijn.

We also expect to see big digital transformations in the coming years. “Data is changing the scope and organization of farming,” says Andre van Troost, CEO of Lely. “Global issues such as food security and safety, animal welfare, sustainability and efficiency improvements are all addressed by data applications. Therefore the scope of data applications extends far beyond the farm alone, and increasingly will cover the entire supply chain. The entire agricultural sector, food suppliers and end consumers will benefit from this!”

That’s why at Lely, we are always looking for the brightest new minds in farming innovation. To stay ahead of the curve, we need data-driven insights that tackle global issues with a fresh approach.

The magic ingredient we look for in startups

With so many brilliant founders ready to take their ideas to the market, competition can be stiff. So what do we look for when choosing startups to invest in? Our startup program manager, Jannet de Jong, shares some of her top tips:

“The all-famous saying: ‘You don’t bet on a horse, you bet on a jockey’ is something very valuable to me,” says Jannet. “Aside from a good idea, I get a spark from looking at the team: are they eager to make it happen, are they coachable, do they have a strong team mentality. We all know that the idea might change, but the team will get the success.”

Beyond having a fantastic team, we also look for solutions that provide a cross-disciplinary approach. “What excites me are the crossovers between several domains,” Jannet comments. “No doubt we will make use of automotive technology to navigate our robots, or medical technology to better understand cow welfare.”

Finally, if you are a first-time founder who is determined to succeed, don’t forget that a strong business acumen is key. “However early it may seem, try to think of a possible business case right from the start,” says Andre. “If there is no business case, do not kill the idea but rework it so there is a business case! Always ask yourself: what is the value of my idea – in other words, what is a future customer willing to pay for it. I know it sounds obvious, but so many ideas I see have not thought this through properly…”

Feed the Future has now launched its second edition of the Feed the Future Challenge, looking for startup’s that could potentially pilot with Lely! Check out more about the challenge here

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