Although they have been around for some time, hackathons continue to see no shortage in popularity – and for good reason! A hackathon (“hack” + “marathon”) is an event that is designed to drive creative solutions to industry problems within a very limited period of time. It is also one of the best ways to drive innovation. Why, you might ask? There are several reasons why hackathons work, one of them being that it allows companies to connect with innovative minds who can propel new ideas forward. The benefits are mutual, as startups or teams with ideas have the opportunity to pitch their vision of the future and gain access to market opportunities.
Together with Rockstart, Lely designed the first Feed the Future Hackathon in November 2020 to bring together people from all corners of the dairy industry. Lely is among the global leaders in farming robotics and management. As a business that has been around since 1948 and created some of the most important inventions in 20th century farming, we want to share our years of experience and expertise with startups. Feed the Future is part of Lely’s innovation initiative to connect with startups in the agri-tech industry. The two and a half day Feed the Future Hackathon, co-organized with our partner Rockstart, was an initiative to empower the next generation of tech pioneers to revolutionize the dairy industry.
There’s more than just a cash prize
Teams of both Lely employees and externals had 48 hours to work together on one challenge and find the best way to solve it. Lely sought innovative solutions that focused on one of three main problems in today’s dairy industry: local food production, animal welfare and fair pricing. The event involved a blend of mentor meetings, workshops and working sessions, during which teams had to prepare to pitch their ideas to a jury. Unlike other hackathons, however, winning teams got something more valuable than the typical cash prize – they won the opportunity to develop their idea further with support from Lely and Rockstart as well as to attend a validation lab at Innofest.
“Too many ideas, startups and companies fail because they forget or choose not to validate. […] With our experiences in helping almost 200 entrepreneurs test their innovation we developed the Innofest method. Rockstart and Lely were the first to work with the latest version of the method, with added canvasses and cards. Thank you for co-pioneering!”Friso Visser, Innofest
You get guidance and feedback from industry experts
On the first full day of hacking, teams had two workshops, two working sessions and two opportunities to consult mentors about their ideas. They also #innovatedfromhome with an interactive social media challenge. On the second day, teams had one more workshop and one mentor check-in before they had to submit their final pitches. The final stage of the hackathon was the pitch event, where the top five teams had five minutes to present their solutions to the jury.
“The Hackathon taught me methods on how to check whether your product fits customers wishes and expectations in an efficient manner.”Ingrid den Uijl, Runner up Hackathon Participant, Lely Cow Monitoring
2020’s Feed the Future Hackathon winners (and what they have to say)
Pitches were diverse and covered solutions from optimizing lactation to bedding machinery. Team Landswap came in first place for their idea to build a geographic algorithm and platform to connect tractor owners and users. Team Extreme came in second place for their solution to extend optimal lactation periods and reduce the time between calvings while maintaining profitability for farmers. Last but not least, Team Easy took third place for their idea to make a sophisticated agricultural network that is locally maintainable.
“You get so much energy trying to figure out if an idea could actually work, by just 2 days out of your daily habits. It’s a no-brainer it works even within a business.”Coert van Lenteren, Hackathon Winner, Global Head of Dairy XL
We are incredibly excited to have partnered with Rockstart to design and produce this initiative. Both teams’ dedication to innovation fueled its success and is a testament to Lely’s efforts to continuously seek out the best solutions for the industry. Moreover, we are thrilled that this initiative provides long-term opportunities for both Lely and innovation talent. Team Landswap is already working towards their MVP and are working hard on their validation strategy, and Team Extreme is conducting further research and getting ready to set up usability tests within Lely. The hackathon produced tangible results that extend beyond a one-time investment and we can’t wait to see the teams succeed further! Stay tuned for more as 2021 will launch other great initiatives for teams and startups from the industry.