Inagros: a 360 crop management platform
by Danae Bersi, Content Creator, New Agriculture New Generation

Talking to Andreas Zerkoulis, founding member of the Inagros team, winner of the "Agroanelixis" Accelerator

Inagros is an electronic platform that combines sensor data, satellite data and observations made by agronomists and then correlates them by proposing ways to modernize agricultural production. Its use contributes significantly to the reduction of consumption of water, pesticides, fertilizers, and energy. The Inagros team presented this innovative project to the Agrifood Accelerator "Agroanelixis" implemented by the "New Agriculture New Generation" organization and managed to be one of the 4 winners of the first phase of the program, receiving funding and additional business support for one year.

I had the opportunity to talk to Andreas Zerkoulis, a founding member of Inagros. He talked to me about the company's philosophy while sharing the experiences the team gained from their participation in the "Agroanelixis" accelerator.

Andreas comes from Thebes and has studied Electrical Engineering at the Technical University of Athens. His father, also an electrician, took him to work from an early age. Andreas loved the practical part of the job as he constantly followed his father to work, even on vacations and holidays. Around the age of 16 he had already learned the job and it was something he enjoyed doing. Growing up, although he started studying as an electrical engineer, he was working on other things as well, like in a fashion school, where he was managing digital marketing and events. In 2014, he volunteered at Job Fair Athens, a project that brings students and graduates in touch with the job market. Initially he volunteered in the fundraising part and after 3 months he was assigned to work as a team leader in a team that would create a mobile application for the event. The following year, he managed to become the finance director of the organizing committee.

Andreas is a restless spirit. He always tried to identify and solve possible problems. As part of an internship he did in Livadia, in a company with irrigation systems and automation he saw firsthand how the agri-food industry works but at the same time, he recognized the multitude of problems faced by farmers, especially in the automation of various processes. Andreas was always close to the agri-food sector, "My uncles are farmers," he tells me. "I grew up in the fields. Seeing the difficulties that arise, I thought about what I could improve". Considering possible solutions, he shared his concerns with his old classmate and friend, Dimitris Drossos, who works as a programmer. Together, they decided that it was imperative to create a tool that would simplify the farmer's life. Thus, in 2014, the idea for the creation of Inagros begun.


Inagros: A comprehensive crop management platform

In the beginning, it started as a tool that would irrigate automatically while at the same time it would have sensors that would alert the farmer about the conditions of the field. But in the process, that changed. "Now we can talk about a comprehensive crop management platform," says Andreas. "Studying the respective crop, the platform brings farmers in contact with agronomists. The producer's land parcel is registered on the digital platform and then the agronomist, whether he is a partner chosen by the producer or a partner of our company, controls the cultivation either through satellite data provided by the platform or through sensors that the team can install accordingly", Andreas explains to me. Both growers and agronomists are notified, either on their mobile phone or via email, for every possible information needed, such as whether the conditions favor the development of a disease or if there are certain actions to be taken based on the crop calendar, etc.

"We can also incorporate automatic watering and data history for better monitoring of all parts. Our goal is to provide all the information needed by all stakeholders so that in the future they can make better decisions for the management of their field", says Andreas. "It is a 360ο service that provides everything that the farmer needs for his cultivation. It is a full solution ".

In their first steps, they participated in many business acceleration programs and incubators in Athens, recognizing their importance in supporting start-ups. "We started by participating in the incubator of the Athens University of Economics and Business where they believed a lot in our idea and helped us a lot. It was the first time we were exposed to presentations and met mentors", Andreas tells me. In 2017 they joined the THEA incubator of A.C.C.I., where they participated in international business exhibitions in Tel Aviv and Amsterdam. Also, through their participation in the PRAKSIS Business Coaching Center program, they managed to build their business plan while at the same time, they were financed by The People’s Trust, managing to obtain the initial capital for the establishment of the company in 2017.

From 2018 the team was formed and now, it consists of 7 partners. "Apart from me and Dimitris, who founded the company, we first included 2 agronomists, Vasso Varvoutsi and Giorgos Kormazos, and then an experienced professional, Vassilis Kasimatis, who is managing sales. Also, 2 other associates were added, Vassilis Laskos and Giannis Hatziris, marketing experts. New people are constantly added to the team as the needs of the company increase ", says Andreas.


Inagros: participation in the business acceleration program "Agroanelixis" implemented by New Agriculture New Generation

The team, wanting to develop even more, had discovered the New Agriculture New Generation’s programs and activities early-on. Firstly, they’d participated in the Trophy-Τροφή Challenge that took place in July 2019. There, they saw that the actions implemented by the NANG organization had a lot to offer in the development and support of their company. Then, as Andreas told me, they were informed about the "Agroanelixis" Accelerator through the regular newsletter of the organization. They though that this was their moment and decided to participate.

The team, presenting the innovative Inagros platform managed to be one of the 4 winners of the first phase of the program and received not only significant funding but also business support for one year. Andreas described me their experience from their participation. "The program’s material was very rich. I did not miss a single seminar and I found the process very constructive," he says. "The guidance provided by the mentors was very important. They were well-known people in the agri-food industry, so the guidance was much more targeted. It was exactly what we needed”, he adds.

He also tells me that he feels that their participation in the program has contributed significantly to their networking in the agri-food sector. "The acquaintance we had, both with the speakers and with the participants, was one of the most important benefits. I know that as soon as all this is over, I will talk to many teams and people with whom we had contacts and we will discuss some potential cooperation ", says Andreas.

The prizes they won from their victory in the first phase of the "Agroanelixis" Accelerator were, of course, particularly important for the team. "We want to develop the company in many different sectors, and this would not be possible without the funding we received from the NANG organization," says Andreas. "It was an unexpected gift that will help the company grow faster," he added. But for the team it was not just the prizes that mattered. As Andreas characteristically says "Through our participation, I feel that me met a new family, that's how we experienced it. We want to give back to this beautiful ecosystem when needed and in whatever way we can. I feel that New Agriculture New Generation is a very important initiative, it is the only initiative that currently exists in the agri-food sector. It is a structure that can understand our problems and help us effectively".


Looking at development and modernization of agricultural production

Inagros is a platform that wants to serve in every possible way producers and agronomists by offering flexibility and automation where needed. It is no coincidence that its pilot program, with minor modifications so that it can work in parks and urban green, has been implemented in the National Garden and is working successfully to this day. "We have built a platform that is essentially plug and play. It can serve any potential user, whether he is an agronomist of the national garden, or belongs to contract farming, or is a farmer ", says Andreas.

The group's plans are to include even more agronomists as partners, while at the same time, they have not stopped investing in research and development since the beginning of their operation. "We never want to rest. We listen to all the suggestions of our audience and process them. Our goal is to create something that is 100% useful for each user individually", says Andreas while adding that "At the moment we are at the beginning. We have also moved on to a newer version which now collects data via satellite, so it does not require the installation of additional equipment and greatly simplifies all procedures, but we have many ideas and plans! Our goal is to make the platform as friendly as possible to our main user, who is the farmer ".

Before concluding our discussion, Andreas emphasizes the importance of the use of technology in the field of agri-food but also the benefits it offers by significantly modernizing and ultimately facilitating agricultural production. As he says, "Apart from the fact that we want to provide solutions to the problems faced by the modern farmer, we consider it our duty as a technology company in an industry that is not so technologically developed, to contribute to its education, so that it can use technology and become competitive ".