From day one, we were positively surprised by how quickly we could roll out solutions, thanks to the combination of Talend ESB and our consultants.Wouter Kerkhof, CEO
Springg (part of DutchSprouts) is a software company that is dedicated to helping farmers produce more crops. But how do you feed a world with a growing number of people in it? Dutch Sprouts is helping to increase the worldwide yield target to be able to feed everyone on Earth in 2050, because they know that giving fertilizer advice to farmers in rural areas can increase their yield target up to 500% in some cases.
Farmers used to have to wait for weeks, even months for soil testing results to be returned. Only about 20 million farmers are able to get to laboratories to get tests, and there are 500 million farmers that need access to this information.
In 2013, we started DutchSprouts, which Springg is part off, to help all farmers have access to laboratories as the western world has,” says Wouter Kerkhof, CEO.
Wouter continues, “You can make the biggest change in countries outside Europe and not in the western world, but in places like the middle of Africa. We worked with the Bill and Melissa Gates foundation to start with Kenya, and then go out to the rest of Africa.”
Dutch Sprouts’ SoilCares started by literally driving the sensors out to the areas of need. “We had a lab with sensors that we placed in the back end of trucks. Farmers bring soil samples to these trucks, we do the soil analysis, and they have fertilizer reports back within two hours,” said Wouter.
The mobile soil testing labs are very expensive – the trucks complete with the sensors total around $100,000 each – still, that sum is far less than the millions of dollars a single physical laboratory would cost. However, the trucks will never be able to reach the hundreds of millions of farmers that need this information. To make this data more accessible, Dutch Sprouts works on a handheld sensor, about 10x10 cm size, with a target to sell them at a low price. This smartphone-enabled SoilCares scanner allows farmers to take their own soil samples, then connect with the SoilCares app – and just two clicks later, they get the calibration of nutrients in his/her soil. For all testing, each farmer pays per measurement, or per click with the handheld devices. We want to keep this technology as affordable to farmers as possible.
Springg Seeks Scalability, Reliability
In 2013, Springg was ready to develop a scalable architecture. Says Wouter: “We were looking for a fast and reliable solution that could grow to handle all the data we had now and expected in future.”
A partner had extolled the virtues of ESB platforms, so that was the direction in which the Springg team was looking. Initially, Springg interviewed other companies to inquire about their architectures. One of those companies in the Netherlands was a Talend customer, so Wouter and his team dug a little deeper into Talend. “We trusted their software, it looked understandable, I’m not a technical guy myself, and we got a strong feeling it would work out with Talend.”
The Talend team presented a Proof of Concept, and Springg liked what it saw, and from there, they engaged Talend to begin the build out. Springg noted that among the deciding factors were Talend’s large open source support community, the subscription based pricing that was straightforward and able to handle Springg’s anticipated fast growth and still keep the costs in control.
“We selected Talend and started creating the first services and we kept on building and building. It’s one of the most important items in the architecture, everything goes through the Talend system,” says Wouter.
Today, Talend ESB is connecting and collecting all of the data coming in to Springg. The trucks send the soil for measurement through proprietary software that gathers sensor information and then runs it through Talend ESB to produce a pdf file that is sent to the truck and can be printed out. The SoilCares scanner data path is the same, but sent through the mobile app.
Springg was pleased with the speed of Talend ESB: “From day one, we were positively surprised by how quickly we could roll out solutions, thanks to the combination of Talend ESB and our consultants.”
Wouter commented on the ease of use from his perspective: “I use Talend without any custom components, just whatever Talend provides - I know Java but I’m not a real programmer, my business is half consulting and half programming, and with Talend I can do it all pretty easily within the Studio. I can ask questions and create the scenario needed by dragging and dropping – I like the usability and speed we can achieve, with little programming knowledge required.”
Steven Knolle, Technical Advisor, explained how the Talend solution typically works: “In a file name there are variables that we recognize and we designed specific tasks for every specific scenario. A file comes in and we determine what task is needed, based on different input files, because the input point is the same. Software running on busses will send a file to one FTP bucket, and Talend is smart enough to see what sensor that file is coming from. We use Talend ESB for two main functions: one is routing the input files through the system, and second is for storing everything related to the spectra coming out of files. Stephen continues, “I view this as a “Talend” train track: some stations are Talend, where we need to store some things, and Talend also needs to make sure the trains get to the right stations at the right time and are uploaded with what they need. The train is Talend, some stations are Talend, it’s a beautiful thing.”
With Talend ESB, Springg is now able to correlate multiple sources of all kinds of field data for delivery to lab for real time analysis. That report comes back to the end customer as a .pdf file within 30 seconds. Not only is Springg able to offer best of breed farm lab data analysis – they provide instant ROI potential to the farmers using the services.
At this moment, Springg has 25,000 customers using mostly mobile platforms. ““We reach more farmers than ever before, as the cost of our solutions are just 1/10 compared to doing it in a classic laboratory. In Kenya, we have 5 laboratories and are looking to roll this out in the Ukraine and U.S.” says Wouter.
Wouter: “We have discussed big data, and we know we are heading towards big data – it’s a matter of definition, and what we want to do with it.” And Springg is talking big data for good reason: they plan to produce 10.000 new SoilCares scanners each year starting in 2016. Each measures 100-200 times a year – meaning the volume of data will grow exponentially in the near future. Springg is currently using Talend ESB to also help create a gold map of each new country they plan to scale to.
The Results are in the Fields
“The biggest success I’ve seen over the past two years, is in a farmer I visited in Kenya. He was a trial customer – exploring if the fertilizer advice would work. Now he is able to produce about four times more crops, earning him about $100 more a year – but that means his kids can now go to school. That $100 is a big difference for him,” said Wouter.
The information the farmers get truly spurs a ripple effect: A farmer who used to earn 50-60 dollars per month, gets data to help them earn another 100-200 per month by increasing target yields. Then they get more leftover crops to feed to milk producing cattle, and the farmer gets that milk – giving him nutrients he needs to work on the fields, because in most of these areas the farmers have no machinery, it’s all human power.
Talend ESB has provided Springg with instant value from their data, and positions the organization for the growth ahead. Springg has said they feel “future proof” with Talend ESB, and that Talend’s vision for growth is in line with their growth model.