Podcast: mOOvement keeps a virtual eye on the herd

Every week, Harm Edens of BNR radio interviews internal and external experts on why a bank is aiming to build a better world. In this week’s podcast, he speaks to Roel van de Ven, co-founder of mOOvement, about a system to track and trace cattle.

Listen to the podcast now (in Dutch) or read on for our synopsis in English.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is opening up amazing possibilities in many areas, including agriculture. Rabobank’s Roel van de Ven, heading a start-up called mOOvement, is using it to help monitor cattle.

Moonshot winner

“I joined Rabobank in 2015. I was still fairly new when I first entered the Moonshot innovation contest* with my colleagues Marlies de Kock, Ciska van den Berg and Pieter Vogels. We won, with our idea to create an app that could track and trace cattle. Basically, a sensor worn by the cows transmits GPS and other data every half hour.

“As winners, we were allowed to pitch our idea to the bank’s management and we earned a place in the accelerator program. That’s where our start-up began, which is still 100% Rabobank owned. We dubbed it mOOvement.

Cows as bankable assets

“Our original idea was to help livestock farmers in developing countries. As most of them own no land, they lack the collateral normally required to get a bank loan for their business. Their only assets are their cattle. But what if each individual cow could be monitored 24/7 by the bank? Would that make it a bankable asset?

“The first trial took place in Kenya. Rabobank wanted to provide the country’s first cattle-backed microloans. But the proposition proved to be too risky for that market. We decided to terminate the project and develop the technology in a more mature market first.

"Australian herds number anything from 1,700 to 8,500 head”

- Roel van de Ven, mOOvement

Testing mOOvement in Australia

“We went Down Under for our next trial. Rabobank Australia put us in touch with customers who were cattle farmers. Of course, their needs are very different from their counterparts in Kenya. They own land in abundance and have easy access to finance. Their problem is keeping track of their tremendous herds. These can number anything from 1,700 to 8,500 head, and roam on ranches the size of 500,000 soccer fields.

“All four of us went to Australia in 2017 to visit ranches, talk to farmers and learn about the challenges they face. We also tested tags on cattle and signed up our first 20 customers. That means tracking 6,000 head of cattle. Long term, we’re aiming for 70,000.

Huge potential

“A firm of IoT specialists based in the Netherlands is working on the tracking devices, and has already delivered prototypes. Once these have been tested, we plan to scale up production later this year.

“The export potential of the technology is huge, as big ranches are also the norm in countries like the US, Brazil and Argentina, and we’re the first to market with a product like this. Further potential lies in emerging new technology, which we could use to enrich the data with drone and satellite images. A data set like that allows for interesting analyses. We can give advice to farmers based on real-time grass and water conditions, or body temperature, which indicates when a cow is in heat.

“We’ll be building a huge database, which will certainly represent value over time. For example, we could partner with veterinarians to offer farmers support. Australian cows are a hardy breed, and usually give birth outdoors without assistance. Only the fittest survive. With the tracking system, however, loss of cows and calves can be prevented, saving farmers AUD 1,400 (EUR 900) a head. Our system eliminates unknowns, so farmers have more options.

“We can give advice to farmers based on real-time conditions”

- Roel van de Ven, mOOvement

Data analysis helps us to add value

“The data belongs to the farmer. Period. They decide what to share with Rabobank. But if they’re prepared to share it, we can warn them if they’re underperforming compared to the benchmark or to earlier years. We can identify the reason why they’re lagging and advise on optimization and innovation. That’s delivering real added value as a bank.

“Of course, the farmer will have less scope to gloss over unwelcome developments. But Rabobank has a wealth of experience supporting farmers through lean years. We don’t get nervous about a short-term dip in results. We’re in for the long haul. The up-to-date information gives Rabobank better insight into the business and the financing risks than last year’s annual report. We can actually measure the impact of the farmer’s business decisions versus conditions beyond the farmer’s control.

“I believe mOOvement is really in tune with Rabobank’s purpose of Growing a Better World Together. Our technology can make farms more efficient and productive, improve animal welfare and make life better for farmers. In Australia and in time, I hope, also in developing countries.”

Rabobank’s ‘Banking for Food’ podcasts are available in Dutch via various podcast apps for iPhone and Android, SoundCloud and Stitcher (23 min).

*The Moonshot campaign is Rabobank’s internal accelerator program. It gives all employees the chance to come forward with ground-breaking ideas that help Rabobank serve its clients better. Ideas like Tellow and Peaks were first developed for Moonshot.