GrainSense brings innovation to the field
With its handheld device, Finnish company GrainSense makes it easy for farmers to measure the quality of their grain, allowing them to make better decisions about their produce.
You might think that being a farmer is a pretty simple job: You attend to your crops, feed the animals, harvest your fields and sell the produce. And you repeat the same tasks year after year. Right?
Wrong. Being a farmer means making hard decisions and being constantly faced with difficult questions, such as: What is the right price for this year’s produce? How much protein is in this season’s crops? Which field should be harvested first?
GrainSense’s device is based on three innovations: First, it uses the same technologies as laboratory machines but fits them into a smaller piece of hardware. Second, the device can be calibrated for different types of grain, making its results more insightful than mere raw data. And finally, it is the world’s first handheld device for analysing grains, so it is easy for farmers take it with them to the field and measure the quality of their crop even before harvest.
Knowledge is power
This means that, for the first time, farmers can have access to accurate data about their own produce, putting them at the same level with big industry players such as mills, which have sophisticated tools for analysing the grain they buy.
One crucial piece of information concerns protein, says Edvard Krogius, GrainSense’s CEO. For grains to be used for baking, their protein content has to be above a certain level; otherwise they will be used as animal feed, in which case the farmer gets a lower price for their grains.
“If you measure your grain before harvest and know that their protein content risks being just below the threshold, you could give the crops a final boost of fertiliser,” says Krogius. “Or if you know that grain from a specific field has a high level of protein, you know not to mix it with lower quality grain.”
This also affects meat producers: “If you raise pigs, for example, you want to make sure the animals get plenty of protein from their feed,” Krogius says.
Helping the farmers of the world
GrainSense’s origins are at the state-owned research centre VTT, where the company’s founder Ralf Marbach began developing a portable measuring device for the agriculture industry. In 2014 the product was spun off into a private company, and early this year GrainSense launched its device.
The firm is now concentrating on the Finnish, Swedish and the Baltic markets, with plans to expand soon to other European countries. Operating internationally was self-evident from the start: “This is a world-class device, and our ambition is to make it available to farmers around the world,” Krogius says. The device can also analyse rice, soy and peas, which could later open up new markets in Asia.
Beyond just helping farmers, GrainSense is motivated by much larger trends that shape global food production: “In the next 30 years, globally we’ll need to produce 70 per cent more food. But the area available for doing this will not expand,” Krogius says. “So, in the future, the focus in food production will need to be more and more on quality rather than quantity.”
“This makes agriculture such an interesting industry to work in. At the end of the day, we are in a far bigger context than selling measuring devices.”