| Accelerator

Agranimo and the Merck Accelerator: Sensing the future of agriculture

Agranimo is a Merck Accelerator startup alumni that offers tools which help agricultural producers improve their yields, protect their crops, plan more effectively and use available resources with more precision. Working very closely with their clients, Agranimo can leverage the latest agriculture technologies, such as wireless climate monitoring tools, to deliver service excellence and specialized management advice. We talked to CEO and founder Nikita Gulin to discover why the Merck Accelerator was attractive, and how the company has benefitted.

1. What motivated you to participate in the Merck Accelerator?

The Merck Accelerator gave us a great opportunity to work with a leading global corporation like Merck. We thought it was an exciting opportunity that could really help us in developing our business. In particular, I believed that the collaboration opportunities which leverage Merck’s expertise would provide an excellent foundation for creating new projects, and would help us make progress much faster than we could on our own.


2. What is the business focus of your startup and which solutions do you offer?

Agranimo provides a microclimate characterization service. That means we input all the available microclimate information about specific farms into our software, and provide real time management indices. These indices help farmers optimize the amount of water and fertilizer they use, reduce waste and increase income. We also do a lot of work around yield forecasting and how that translates into complementary services like crop insurance, for example. This information is particularly interesting for buyers of agricultural products; you can really forecast how much volume you are expecting, stretch your sales activity accordingly, and reduce waste in the system. We have also developed and patented some sensors that are currently being manufactured, and we are integrating them with third-party sensors. The data we collect includes, for example, weather information, climate data and how the climate impacts plant growth. As a result, we can provide farmers with access to insight that can help them make better decisions.


3. Why was the Merck Accelerator at the Innovation Center beneficial for your startup?

The Innovation Center is where Merck explores the new businesses that will help shape its future as a company, both between and beyond its existing activities. By the time we finished the Accelerator, we had a very good understanding of the innovation pipeline, how Merck structures the innovation process, and how we can leverage it so that we both benefit. We completed one project during the Accelerator program, one externally, and now we are working on a third project. And, of course, we have also created long-term partnerships with some other teams at the Innovation Center!


4. How are you collaborating with innovation teams at Merck?

Collaboration with the Innovation Center is happening because our field of operation is new and we wanted the freedom to explore ideas out of curiosity, even if they didn’t turn into formal projects. Right now, we are very excited as we are collaborating with an internal innovation project at the Innovation Center.


5. What would you tell Merck other startups about your experience?

I would encourage them to participate. There are a lot of people at Merck with many different areas of expertise, and as a startup with limited resources it is often difficult to reach people with unique specific expertise and get very detailed feedback. Merck is actively encouraging people from different offices and fields to come together to create news ideas and businesses. Not only does this mean that you can benefit from having a joint project with the company, but you also become part of a flow of ideas which can help shape your business. There are a lot of ways to participate, so, as a startup that can benefit from great partnerships, why not get involved?


6. What are your final thoughts about the Innovation culture at Merck?

It’s clear that Merck has always been curious about new fields of activity and how to apply their existing skills and knowledge to innovate in those areas. While it isn’t easy to create an innovation culture that permeates a large company from top to bottom, the support from senior management is there. In fact, Merck has become more and more supportive over the past year, and the company is constantly creating new ways to involve employees and startups in the innovation process. I think they are doing all the right things!


Are you interested in being part of the next Accelerator program intake? stay tuned! In June we will open applications for the next Merck Accelerator at our Innovation Center.