For many years, agriculture has had a sustainability problem. World food production is declining and much of it can be traced to individual farms. To start with, a small hold farmer has its usual adversities like pests, weeds, drought and bad weather, and crop resiliency. He also has to think about the regular maintenance work in the farm – quality check, harvesting, logistics, accounting and inventory, and so much more. And we are not talking about any employees here yet.
Farming is a difficult job on its own, running a farm business is another story. So imagine the stress a farmer has to go through from the start of planting season to harvesting to his produce reaching the market and getting the return of investment after all overhead costs.
Robin Saluoks and Stenver Jerkku, founders of agritech company eAgronom, thought of a way to relieve farmers from the burden of navigating through peaks and troughs of running a business and let them focus on what’s really important – the farming.
We talked with Robin and Stenver how their disruptive service is attracting the world’s attention and changing the landscape of the agriculture sector.
What does winning Young Entrepreneur of the Year mean to you as co-founder, to your organization, to your clients and partners?
RS: Being a young Entrepreneur of the Year tells to eAgronom people that the public also feels that we are on the right way. It makes us happy of course, but it doesn’t change who we are. My father is a farmer, our customers are farmers and most of our investors are farmers, therefore, we have only one mantra – Farmer First! This is who we are and this is who we will be in the future.
SJ: When we got the award, we were all surprised. Just a week before me and Robin discussed who it should be – and we were sure it’s going to be Kaarel from Veriff. He deserves it and I hope he will get it next year! However, receiving the award ourselves brought a lot of attention and reinforced an already strong belief in the company. eAgronom has already expanded rapidly, raised a total of 3M euros over 2 years and attracted some of the most talented people globally. It is a big symbol for our strong team and all the hard work they put into the company. I speak for everybody when I say that I’m proud to be part of this team and glad we are changing the world together!
What was the inspiration behind founding eAgronom?
RS: eAgronom started out from me building a tool that would help my father to spend more time with family. Once I met my partner in crime – the COO and Founder of eAgronom – Mr Stenver Jerkku, we understood that eAgronom is way bigger than our story. It is world-changing journey that has a goal to unite all the farmers in the world. We believe that by helping farmers to achieve their financial goals, we will achieve a cleaner environment and a healthier world. This is a huge inspiration for us since eAgronom farmers are already providing food to millions of people.
SJ: Most of us joined eAgronom because farmers are the foundation of our society – we wanted to make farmers happier, richer and letting them spend more time with their families. Through farmers, we want to make the world a cleaner place and our food healthier.
eAgronom was started when Robin showed me his father’s farm and many other farms. Farms these days are real businesses with real business problems. However, they lack the tools to focus on optimizing their business processes and need to spend a lot of time gathering data or on other low-value activities. This means they often need to outsource a lot of their knowledge. One of the things they outsource is agronomical information – fertilizer and chemical salespeople. The salespeople salaries are directly connected to how much fertilizers and chemicals they sell, so obviously they push the farmer towards the maximum amount of yield and revenue, not the maximum amount of profit. This cuts into farmers profit margins and pollutes our environment.
We saw that this is our chance to truly have a global and positive impact on the whole world by helping farmers.
Can you tell us more about your services?
RS: We bring more time and money to farmers. eAgronom is a place where farmer looks in the morning, day and evening to get information that is important for decision making. This is just the beginning since we will become the everything store in farming.
SJ: During the winter the farmer plans for the next year – his crops, logistics, financials, fertilizers, chemicals, etc. We help the farmer with all of those tasks. During the summer the farmer works on the field and manages the employees. We help with task and employee management through a mobile phone, inventory tracking and keeping tabs on the situation.
After the season, the farmer can compare his fields side-by-side and analyze his fields – find out why one field was better than another. All the government reports which take up to a month each year are only 1 click away.
One of your buzzwords is farmer-friendly, what does it mean and what is the effect of having a farmer-friendly solution to farmers?
RS: Our first person after founders were designer and awesome decision since the average age of our user is over 50 years. These are smart guys, but they prefer to be on nature rather than sit behind the computer. Therefore we try to map habits that they already have and bring them to the digital world. I remember watching my grandfather giving orders to tractor operators while pointing on the map. My father is doing it similarly but on the tablet and workers receive tasks to their smartphones.
SJ: We are in every way by farmers for farmers. This starts with our founder, Robin, who has been raised in a farm his whole life.
Our company culture also revolves around farmers – developers and analysts travel and visit the farmers to conduct research before developing anything. We had an entire developer team visiting Polish farmers just 2 months ago to truly understand what and how the customers want to use the software features. We don’t sit in the office and think of ways to make farmers life better. We talk to them. Sales and CS always put the farmers, their calls and questions before any other tasks in their day-to-day work. A meeting can always wait if a customer is in trouble!
We are also financed by farmers – our own customers, Estonian farmers, invested 500K to eAgronom to help with our product development and expansion.
In this day and age, why do you think your company matters in our society?
RS: eAgronom customers provide food to millions of people already. This number grows exponentially each year and therefor every decision that our development team does is affecting the health of the society. At the same time, the hectares that we manage to grow exponentially as well. You can think about soil as a CO2 bank and our customers are growing it. Increasing carbon level in the soil is one of the most important KPIs for our customers since it increases soil quality and yield in a natural way without paying big money to chemical companies.
SJ: eAgronom has a chance to truly impact the world in a positive way. By helping farmers make data-driven decisions, we make one of the hardest and oldest job on earth easier, more profitable and through farmers help the world become a cleaner place.
We have already proven how we have saved farmers tens to hundreds of thousands of euros a year and had a direct positive impact on the environment.
Can you name some challenges that your startup is facing? And how do you plan to address them?
RS: I believe that the biggest challenge for every company is to staying true their focus and culture. We are not focusing on entire farming but only grain farming right now. This has allowed us to grow exponentially with that small costs. At the same time, we are constantly reminding us who we are since we believe it will bring us good results in the future. Staying really true these values is the biggest challenge every company faces.
SJ: Sales and expansion – farming is a very traditional and conservative industry. In addition, every country we enter has its own culture and language. We need to adapt to every country we enter to ensure a swift market acquisition. In order to achieve that, our own founder and CEO – Robin Saluoks – personally moved to Poland to jump-start the country expansion. He plans to bunny-hop the major markets until we have nailed the expansion plan to be like a sharp spear and we can put it to full auto-pilot.
What are your future plans?
RS: eAgronom will become everything store in farming. We continue uniting farmers with awesome speed and stay true to our main value – Farmer First. Farming will be a most stable business sector in the future that is very little influenced by weather (this is where most people would probably disagree with me).
SJ: First, we plan to take Baltics, Poland and Czech. Then we will take Europe. Then we will take North America and Russian speaking countries. Finally, we will take the world!
All the while we will continue improving our platform and eventually want to give agronomical suggestions that are generated by AI to help farmers make better decisions and have a direct positive impact on our food and soil sustainability.
We recently heard the news that you acquired another set of funding, can you tell us more about it and how does it help further your cause?
RS: We wanted to have the perfect set of investors during this 1M EUR round and we got it – international VC funds, foreign market local VC funds and builders of Pipedrive which is one of the most successful SaaS companies. Each party is useful for reaching our next goals – connect farmers fast + raise A round – and at the same time supports our strategy for becoming everything-store in farming. People in eAgronom, existing investors and new investors understand that eAgronom will save 10B euros for farmers yearly by the end of 2023.