Over the years, NCTU_Formosa has been revolutionizing the way we farm, one project at a time. With Operation Debug (2014), we developed an efficient and effective biological pest control method; We achieved sustainable and automated pest elimination with Pantide (2016); Parabase (2017) added fungal disease prediction and protection to our repertoire; and now, finally, we’ve perfected bacterial control to reach the pinnacle of fertilization with Plant B. These concepts, already powerful on their own, could transform the field of agriculture entirely, allowing for drastic growth in countless markets. To test the efficacy of our project designs, we integrated all of them in a small demonstration farm outside our campus, using turmeric plants as test subjects.
Our farm depends on a regulation system consisting of four parts: pest control, disease control, fertilizer control and irrigation. Click below to learn more about each!
Health products have seen explosive rise in demand in the past decade.
Many of these products directly depend on agricultural output, a factor our combined system can amplify greatly. Currently, we are growing turmeric plants on our demonstration farm. Turmeric is used widely as a spice in food, and more importantly can be further processed into curcumin, an antioxidant prized for its anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, we decided that our target audience should be businesses involved in the processing of turmeric into medicines or supplements. We adopted a business to business model, acting as a supplier of turmeric to health product and biotech material companies.
We plan to contract out the job of producing turmeric to local farmers; we provide our facilities (bio-stimulators, sensors, irrigation systems) and they manage the production end. This business model provides a few key benefits to both us and the farmers. First, barring extreme weather conditions hindering crop production (a potential risk to any farmer), agreeing to a contract with us would provide farmers with a stable profit per harvest regardless of the demand of turmeric in grocery stores and farmers markets. Second, our product is going to big companies with reputation in the industry, providing a better chance at securing long-term income. Finally, business to business models allow for a greater deal of negotiation than conventional business plans, allowing us to secure more benefits for both ourselves and our contracted farmers.
Business Canvas Model
In our business planning, we put our team as a role of green medical plants producer that meet the criteria of GACP (Good Agricultural and Collection Practice). Our target audiences (TA) will be those biotech companies and health products companies by B2B model. We will approach these TA by business promotion and visiting. To build the contract farms, our company will cooperate with construction companies and sensor hardware companies. One of the most important activities is that we will first train those farm administers that willing to joining contract farming with our companies. Besides, providing a traceable products cultivation process is also the key activity for us to ensure the quality of products. In this business model, the revenue of our company is from selling those toxic free medical plants in contract farms. Other than selling green products, we also will have revenue when build up contract farm for those farm holders that join our business.
To start our business, we first analysis the SWOT of our future start-up companies. The strength and benefits of our service is that we have IoT platform which can integrate all kinds of sensors easily that will be user-friendly to farm holders. With the platform, they can run the contract farm efficiently. Moreover, we also have developed various AI models including fertilizing, pest prediction, diseased prediction that can aid in management of a farm. The challenges that we will face including the build-up of a stable open-air soil cultivation as there will have the chances to face the nature disaster. Besides, the smart farming knowledge and GACP cultivation information is not popular to most of the farmers in Asia, so to promote our business, passing the knowledge to those interested farmers is very important. Although there are some challenges that we need to face, but there are also a lot of opportunities for our team. As awareness of food safety and environmental protection increase, the demand for non-toxic products also increase at the same time. Moreover, as the aging farmer population has become a serious problem, the trend of smart agricultural management rises recently. Furthermore, the market size of bio-insecticides, bio-antifungicides that are eco-friendly become increase year by year. These opportunities show us the chance for our business model to get involve in the agricultural field.
About the patent portfolio of our technology, we had started planning and applied since year 2016. Every year, we apply for US provisional application before unveiling our project in the annual iGEM jamboree including this year. We applied patents in China and Taiwan regions, as our start-up company will focus the market of these two regions. Recently, we have been informed two approving patents each in a region. Furthermore, we will develop our smart farm system in southeast Asia countries, such as Vietnam and Malaysia. So, application of patents in these countries are needed to be planned. To have sufficient time of planning, we are now planning for PCT application for the “Fungal Disease Occurrence Prediction System”.
Pitch and Introduction of the Green and Smart Farming Services
Since 2016, our team has accumulated our experiences to pitch our products and services in front of venture capitals and public. Following is our experiences:
- Longterm Cheers Contest- Merit Award (100,000 TWD)
- TECO Green Tech International Contest- The Gold Medalist
- Beijing-Taiwan Startup Contest- 2nd runner-up in semi-round of Green Tech group
- Asia-Silicon Valley Start-up Contest- Merit award
- Microsoft Imagine Cup (Taiwan region)- 1st runner-up (30,000 TWD)
Press release on 11th Sep 2018 reported our team’s smart demonstration farm that integrated AI regulatory system and eco-friendly cultivation of medical plants. With the aid of AI models to maintain the health of plants, the curcumin that produced by turmeric plants has been optimized, and five times more the curcumin concentration than normal cultivation methods.
About the press, please “click”.
To introduce our smart farm cultivation technology and service to agricultural companies and venture capitals, we participating the 2018 Asia Agri-Tech Expo that held on 26th-28th of July. There are about 210 agri-companies from 19 countries participating the exhibition. According to the organizer, total amount of visitors is about 14,000 around the world.
Result of Cultivation in Demonstration Farm
In the field test, our team applied bio-insecticide-PANTIDE on plants to observe the effect of treatment. The result shown that plants treated with bio-insecticides have been protected and have less damaging.
To decide the final model of farming methods, our team has compared different cultivation methods to find out the best solution for turmeric to grow in the demonstration farm. The farming methods including: open-air cultivation, shaded partially cultivation and a more shaded cultivation. Finally, by using the final model that integrated our technologies in cultivation, the tumeric plants grow the highest with the highest SPAD value.
1. (2017). "Global Herbal Medicine Market Size, Value, 2014-2024 | Industry Report." Retrieved September, 2017, from https://www.hexaresearch.com/research-report/global-herbal-medicine-market.
2. (2017). "Turmeric Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size and Forecast, 2017 to 2027." Retrieved 10-23, 2017, from https://www.futuremarketinsights.com/reports/turmeric-market.
3. Hewlings, Susan J., and Douglas S. Kalman. “Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health.” Foods 6.10 (2017): 92. PMC. Web. 13 Oct. 2018.
4. Wieters, S. (2017, 2017-11-04). "Substantial Advantages of Business To Business Marketing." from https://medium.com/manager-mint/substantial-advantages-of-business-to-business-marketing-e3fcca958974.