Technology

The technology that seeks to avoid losses in the agricultural world

Thomas Valenzuelafounder of Agroinventory, says that the pandemic was a factor that unexpectedly boosted a project that he had been putting together for several years. The chemicals used in national agriculture tended to rise in price and this forced their owners to be much more efficient with their processes. A poorly managed warehouse can bring very expensive results, and they urgently needed a tool to help them with that. Beside Vincent Perezan idea arose with which they could save millions of pesos with a simple change: use an intelligent scale to keep the inventory updated, taking its first steps as a startup.

The agronomist, a native of Requínoa, began to build this project from his first personal experiences in the agricultural wineries of the Sixth Region. “We had to work in chemical product warehouses and there was a problem that was constantly repeated. No matter how hard we tried, it was impossible to control the warehouse. We could never carry the stock we had in detail,” he says. This is due to the fact that the inventory methods were very old and manual, which made them unspecific and slow to process, generating time problems. “We were up to the last minute with the product distributor, standing in line just because we were short of a liter, or returning products that were left over. It was chaotic.” Management then became their main task even if it wasn’t, taking away 90% of their time.

According to a study carried out by the Undersecretary of Agriculture in 2021, the real contribution of the agricultural production chain is 15% of GDP, in addition to representing 17% of the total exported by Chile. Despite this, most farmers do not know what or how much chemicals they have in their warehouses, leading to high stock expiration rates, delaying and complicating the process. Under this premise, Agroinventario took its first steps. Even while at university, both founders managed to make several prototypes of programs that could help in the wineries, until they found the right one.

Tomás Valenzuela and Vicente Pérez started looking for technological solutions for the agricultural chemical world in 2018.

“We did several tests of what was something like the ‘Thermomix’ of chemical products. Until one day we saw a person weigh bread in a supermarket on these scales with a touch screen. He put the bread in, took out the label, and we realized that that was what we had to apply,” she explains. From there they adapted the final solution. It was an inventory that would be built and managed through weighing, hoping to completely eliminate the input of manual information, a process that they considered long, imprecise and above all cumbersome.

The startup started with the help of a Corfo Regional Entrepreneurship Support Program. After a year of system tests, Agroinventario came to light in 2019, providing a solution to many fields near the O’Higgins region.

“In our process of searching for solutions, we contacted different agricultural fields where the same thing happened to them as to us. We visited their warehouses and realized that the loss of chemical products was very great. They had many expired products, products that were thrown anywhere or applied to the plants in poor condition,” Valenzuela confesses. In the agricultural world, this mismanagement of waste is not only a complication in terms of time, but also directly affects finances. Beyond the fields of the Sixth Region, at the national level, 400 million pesos were lost every year due to poor inventory management, something that they hoped to change with technology.

The specific service consists of being able to know the winery and each container of it with the exact content in real time. Agroinventario makes a quotation to the field and once approved, an initial stock survey is made in two days. “We go with a team, we take all the products out of the warehouse and they are entered into our system,” explains Valenzuela. Then, the code that is attached to the product in the form of a sticker is generated, all the products are labeled and everything that is open passes through the scale to update the weight. This scale, with a special software created by them, is installed in the warehouse of each client. “Then we also do training for those involved.”

The scale with a touch screen is the same as that of supermarkets (in fact, they work with the same supplier of many of them), and allows farmers to make quick decisions, not make mistakes in purchases, reduce the expiration date and reduce the valuation of this one. In addition, it has an environmental impact, due to the decrease in expired products.

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“In the end it’s just communication between data tables. Our technological base is to make data converse to shape solutions and to be able to manage in different directions, such as monetary value, for example”, says the founder.

This software connected to a digital scale works on the computers of each warehouse where Agroinventario has put its technology.

The balance changed the rules of the game. Both the founders of Agroinventario and the professionals of the agricultural world themselves managed to realize that similar technologies did indeed exist on the market, however, they were difficult to understand. “These technologies could be very well applied, but they were not ready for the end user. Unfortunately, there was a very large technological gap in the field, where if one gave farmers a very specific program, they would simply get complicated,” says Valenzuela. And for the same reason they developed a technology that was as automatic as possible.

The jump was big. They went from having to fill out a form by hand, which then goes to the central office and from there is just uploaded to an Excel, to passing a container in front of a code scanner. Something that made them grow the business quickly.

“A client of ours started running two softwares in parallel to see the differences. In the third month he called us and told us that our program was easier for him, ”says the founder. On that occasion, the client was able to save 2.5 million in purchases, since the algorithm considers all the physical and chemical characteristics of the container and product, therefore it is able to determine with great accuracy how much of each thing remains. “The other systems are very easy to see, and it is very common to do it the other way. So now is the time to start applying the technology.”

Currently, and thanks to their innovation, they work with fields from Melipilla to Osorno, managing every detail and information of more than 3 thousand chemical products. They have even been able to scale this business internationally. “We have had meetings with Mexico and the United States and the truth is that they have not found a similar system abroad that can help them, so getting there is super feasible.” And not only that, since the inventory problem is a problem in almost all markets, and their idea is to be able to acquire the ability to reach other niches with the scale.

Agroinventario makes a quote to the client field and once approved, an initial stock survey is made in two days.

“They have called us from hotels, mining and health, because stocks are coming in and out of all the items every day, and order in that area is absolutely essential,” says the founder of Agroinventario. From the time a product is entered until it is digitized, a significant amount of time passes in between, which gives rise to mistakes that could be easily solved with the implementation of the scale. “There is a huge difference between 20 liters of something and 19.8 liters of the same thing. That is nowhere taken into consideration and we are considering it. We appeal to the immediacy of the information for its best use and that is what we aim for”.

Today the company wants to establish itself well in agriculture and then move on to other areas. At this time they are focused on being able to be present throughout the production chain, from the acquisition of products to the handling of empty containers. “To date, no one had been able to have the exact traceability of these containers, but today we are managing to deliver a history, and the idea is to connect with institutions that generate a collection to contribute with the REP Law, know what to do with the waste and know the recycled percentage, be as sustainable as possible”, says the founder.

Meanwhile, Agroinventario is going to be installed in the analysis laboratories of the Catholic University, opening a niche to work with chemical reagents and not only agricultural ones, putting together new databases and improving its software to meet the needs of all potential clients. “At the end of the day, what we want is to be the most specialist in inventory in the country, and we are getting closer to that title.”

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