How do you keep track of some 8,500 cows efficiently on a ranch as big as 500,000 soccer fields? Start-up mOOvement came up with an answer: a track & trace system for cows.
MOOvement began in the fall of 2016 as the brainchild of four Rabobank colleagues: Ciska van den Berg, Marlies de Kock, Pieter Vogels, and Roel van de Ven. They devised a way to make livestock farms in Kenya financially viable: by tagging cows with a GPS tracking chip.
This would make it possible for Rabobank to offer microloans to small but promising livestock farmers. Roel van de Ven recounts: “We submitted our idea to the Partnership Election — a joint initiative by networking organization the Punchy Pack, the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs, and the FMO development bank — in May 2017. The Partnership Election is where young professionals within companies — in our case, Rabobank — establish new partnerships to develop sustainable business cases in developing countries.” The team won the Best New Partnership Award with its idea.
The mOOvement team from left to right: Roel van de Ven, Marlies de Kock, Ciska van den Berg and Pieter Vogels.
The idea really gained momentum soon after, when the mOOvement team was declared the winner of Moonshots, Rabobank's internal accelerator program. The program gives employees the chance to develop groundbreaking concepts. Van de Ven: “Within a week we had entered the accelerator, a 12-week program during which we were able to conduct research full time and further flesh out our idea. We haven't returned to our old jobs since.”
“We haven't returned to our jobs since winning Moonshots”- Roel van de Ven, co-founder of mOOvement
With Rabobank's help, the team was able to develop as a start-up. Ven de Ven: “We worked using the lean start-up method and were supported and coached throughout by Rabobank. All four of us were already pretty entrepreneurial, but we learned a lot about starting a business. For example, our proposition proved to be too risky for Africa, both in terms of the technology and the commitment from the value chain. But the concept was viable for Australia. Using Rabobank's network there, we discovered that farmers there don't particularly require financing, but do need a way to monitor their cattle over great distances. Australian ranches are enormous, with an average of 1,700 cattle per ranch (some with as many as 8,500) and with a surface area equivalent to 500,000 soccer fields.”
To research the needs of Australian farmers, all four team members spent time on ranches for a number of months. “This enabled us to see with our own eyes what works and what doesn't,” explains Van de Ven. “For example, we switched from using collars to ear tags because they turned out to take less time and be safer for the cows.”
Twenty farmers will pilot the project for half a year starting this summer to see if the technology works. If it does, the farmers will begin paying for it after those six months. They can choose to buy GPS tracking with or without an option to measure body temperature. The latter feature shows whether a cow is in heat, a great time saver for the farmer. “If the trial period is successful, we can conquer the world with mOOvement!” says Van de Ven, only half in jest.
“MOOvement serves both the farmer and the bank”- Roel van de Ven, co-founder of start-up mOOvement
Rabobank's network and financial support helped mOOvement enormously, says Van de Ven. The bank has also benefited from the product. Van de Ven: “Nowadays, you can use satellite images to determine the condition of the grass. Combining that data with precipitation patterns and the GPS data from the cows generates interesting insights for both the farmer and the bank, such as the cows' condition and what the ideal number of cattle is to graze on the land during a particular period. Using up-to-date information means the bank can make better decisions about financing requests than if it were to use the annual figures from the previous year. MOOvement enables us to serve not only the farmer, but also the bank.”
The Moonshot campaign is an internal accelerator program that gives all Rabobank employees the chance to come forward with groundbreaking ideas that help Rabobank serve its clients better. Ideas such as Tellow and Peaks were first developed for Moonshot.