Startup Stories: The Challenges of Communication in Agriculture
Improving communication is vital to make agriculture more efficient and sustainable. Making the multiple procedures of the oil production industry easier is the goal of Alcuzapp. Antonio Moreno and David and Antonio Galisteo took on this challenge and developed Alcuzapp, an app to facilitate communication between farmers dedicated to olive production and olive oil mills.
Please introduce yourself briefly. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Antonio Moreno, Alcuza Software CEO, developer and responsible for the AlcuzApp Project.
I studied computer science at university, and, soon after, I worked as a programmer. I started my first computer services company in which I worked for 13 years. I’ve always been a curious person who likes doing different things and facing new challenges. For that reason, I let go of that phase, to develop new ideas and grow personally. I surrounded myself with a little team of professionals, Antonio José Galisteo and David Galisteo, to create AlcuzApp for the olive sector. My efforts are focused on growing the project by working directly with companies of this sector.
Why the agtech sector and what was your pathway into the field?
Part of the Alcuza team is the sons to agriculturists. We’ve been in the front row of technological and procedural changes that are being introduced to our agricultural holdings. The olive culture has always been a part of us since our childhood and, somehow, we’ve strived to find a way to improve the work and the lives of agriculturists. A while ago we asked ourselves how could we go a step further towards the oleic sector support; we pinpointed a problem within this sector and decided to build AlcuzApp to fix it.
What has been your biggest professional/career challenge and/or success so far?
Alcuza’s customer segment is a little, but important, niche. The main challenge for Alcuza is to overcome our worst competition: “the traditional way of doing things.” It’s important to ask our customers how they currently do their work, and make them see how our services improve their work, making it easier, faster, cheaper and more effective.
Over a year ago, we presented our project to the Minerva Programme. A public-private consortium, constituted by Vodafone Spain and the Regional Government of Andalusia, AlcuzApp was one of the 20 projects that were selected for a startup acceleration out of 114 projects that were presented in its third edition. El Referente places AlcuzApp in the Spanish agtech scene, beside large consolidated companies.
Our greatest satisfaction is to see farmers using our applications.
What’s your vision for Alcuza’s future? What role will it play in the development of the agtech sector?
Alcuza aims to be a reference for data communication between large agrarian companies and the thousands of farmers with whom they interact daily. We want that, if a company wants to effectively communicate with its environment, they immediately think of AlcuzApp. With AlcuzApp we put on the agriculturist’s hand all their data, “in real time.” We also give what’s most important to them: their crops’ information.
Our solutions will allow the agricultural sector to permanently get companies and agriculturists in touch fluidly, improving their relations. We’ll replace less efficient, traditional procedures and optimize and reduce communication costs. It’s something we’re already working on.
Why is now the time to start work in the field of agtech?
Agriculture plays a very important role in Spain. It’s a strategic sector of great social and economic importance. The Spanish countryside has been taking part in a continuous improvement in the last years, due in part to generational renewal, more acquainted with new technologies.
There are many technological advances that are breaking through on our fields and it is time to introduce ourselves in this sector with innovative elements that eases the work of agriculturists. If we can do something, let’s do it now.
On agtech in general
How do you perceive the current labor market situation of the agtech industry in general and how does it modify the demand for employees in your company at the moment?
In my opinion, the agtech sector demands quite a lot of qualified professionals in several areas: biologists, agronomists and computer and electronic engineers. Sometimes small companies don’t have teams large enough so we opt for external counseling in topics that our personnel can’t completely address. However, our investment in product development and business model is a priority factor the recruitment of new talent for diverse projects.
How is the agtech sector going to change our lives and society in 5, 10 and 25 years?
The agtech sector is already changing our lives. There exist automatic irrigation and fertilization control systems that efficiently manage the use of water and nutrients to optimize the production in greenhouses. The agriculturist serves as a supervisor. He has been spared this complex and repetitive labor to make it something virtually automatic. Phenological process analysis of some arable crops are already being made. We will certainly see how systems are developed that allow us to treat specific deficiencies in specific areas of our crops by applying solutions that we can not imagine.
I think the agriculturist job will turn, in part, to the supervision of diverse systems that, in real time, will control the development of the harvest, and will communicate with the agriculturist. Within these, and other communication processes, Alcuza Software wants to be present.
Where do you see the major problems of the occupational field of the agtech sector and what countermeasures would you suggest?
There are many companies that jump into this sector, or have consolidated their presence with some of their products, and dedicate themselves to recreating their own versions of existent services. It is true the field needs ERP solutions and field notebooks, by way of example, in my opinion, it is necessary to take the risk and come up with innovative solutions to be introduced in the market so that new jobs are created.
I’m aware it’s easier to say it rather than do it, but if your company only makes copies of what already exists, you’re either much better than the rest, or it is hard for you to compete. If you opt for having a “low price” strategy, it’ll end up hurting your business. The constant innovation and rapid change by the hand of an active heed of customer feedback is the best solution to this problem.
On job opportunities and how to get started in ag tech
What skills do your employees get out of the experience of working in Alcuza that they won’t get in any other company?
I think it would be the fact that we’re constantly questioning ourselves about what can be done, on a daily basis, to improve our customers’ and users’ experience. We really need to take this aspect into account because they don’t always match. We must constantly question ourselves: “how can we do even better?”
How important are foreign experience and international communications skills to you in the agtech sector?
Alcuza is a young company with scalable services. We’re in the growth phase within our national market, but we’re actually dealing with a potential client in Portugal. Further than that, we lack any kind of international experience.
Growing outside the country requires investment, and important marketing and communications work. It’s essential to have professionals of the sector to manage the workload and the time. Right at this moment, getting international is not a priority, we bet on our consolidation in the national market first.
What career opportunities are currently given in the agtech sector and how will these change in your opinion?
The agtech market requires a large number of professionals from very diverse areas: agronomists, computer scientists, biologists, marketers and communicators, among others. The agricultural industry is one of the largest in the world and is ever growing, increasing the GDP of many countries. It is necessary to human capital to face the approaching challenges, such as ensuring the production of quality food for the populations in a sustainable way. Getting technology implemented in the agricultural sector is the best way to do this.
Which basic qualifications should an employee fulfil to get employed at your company? What are basic requirements to getting started?
Training and passion. Believing in the project and being conscious that this work improves people’s quality of life, so it makes it more important than just being a mere name in the payroll. Teamwork is fundamental. The coordination among all the areas of the company is essential. AlcuzApp is not a personal project, but the result of a team’s efforts; its values lie in the involvement of its members to achieve the goals we set.
Antonio, thank you very much for this interview!
About the interviewee
Antonio Moreno is the CEO of Alcuza Software and responsible for the AlcuzApp project.
He studied computer science on a university level and worked as a programmer. After founding his own computer service company and working in this area for 13 years, he took on a new challenge with creating AlcuzApp.
He is responsible for growing the project by working directly with companies of this sector.
Alcuza Software S.L.