When the SOM project (i.e. Smart Public Environments) was initiated, one of the first sub-projects was to utilize sensors in urban farming. The sub-project manager for this was Anders Hedberg of Sensefarm. He believes that the project has given the company a greater understanding of how municipal operations work and an opportunity to test products early in a forgiving environment. Finally, the project has also led to increased business.
Anders Hedberg of Sensefarm led the sub-project within SOM that trialled the use of sensors in urban farming during the fall of 2017. The journey they underwent shows how challenging it can be to work in the development of projects, but also the great results one can achieve.
– When developing something the path will not be dead straight, explains Anders Hedberg. It is important to identify issues early on, in order to approach the task in a gentle way.
That was exactly what happened for the part of the project carried out in Lund, where sensors in greenhouses were tested together with a monitoring system. The sensors measured humidity and temperature so that users could log in and check the progress over time. If the reading became too high an alarm would be sent to the users’ mobile phones.
– Those undertaking testing in Lund were unable to create an account and log in. The feedback we received was that nobody understood the web interface, but a year later we were able to come so far in development that we now receive emails from municipalities that think it is great. It functions well now thanks to the participants that we undertook trials with.
In Malmö the projectmembers tested how to monitor the irrigation of plants in a newly planted park. The placement of sensors in different locations and at various depths allowed us to gain an understanding of how much water reached the roots of the plants during irrigation and rain.
– We verified the system in Malmö and saw that it worked well enough, says Anders Hedberg. It was a way for us to test with customers that could give feedback and were aware that it was new technology. Subsequently we have sold to several cities, for example to Södertälje but also to Karlstad and Linköping.
The project also became a way to see how the new LoRa-network worked.
– When we set up the LoRa-network in Lund we primarily tested in urban environments, says Anders Hedberg. At that time, it was a new technology being used very early compared to the rest of Sweden. This gave us a technical and knowledge-based advantage. We are benefitting from this now that we have other municipal customers who have similar problems that we experienced in Lund. Then we understand that it is normal, and we know how to act.
Why has it been good for you to be a part of the SOM-project?
– It is good that the project requires us to connect with a municipal party. This means that one is forced to make the right contacts, otherwise one can just run away and solve problems that no one wanted a solution for. In a collaboration with municipal stakeholders we confront and solve issues with people that have other perspectives. This has meant we have begun to understand the requirements and preferences of the municipalities.
– To receive funding for half of our endeavours has helped us do more experimental things. In Lund we are at the forefront of technological development and have ongoing discussions about different business models for IoT. We hope to capitalize on this later.
Can you say that your business has grown through SOM?
– Yes, it has. Sales of sensors have doubled this year from the previous year for customers related to the SOM-project. Our customers were previously farmers and we usually delivered only one or two sensors at a time. Now that we deliver to municipalities there can be between five and thirty sensors delivered each time.
Sensefarm has also contributed to work on the West Link railway in Gothenburg by supplying sensors for monitoring of the large trees that have been moved due to the construction works. The sensors are meant to provide data to ensure that the trees are managed properly and thus can establish themselves more quickly. And soon there will be a similar commitment in Lund.
– For me, it is a pleasure that in the last few days I have been able to submit a tender for the supervision of Katedralskolans new ornamental tree in Lund, where my son started high school in autumn. The tender relates to sensors and online services to ensure the tree receives the right amount of water and establishes itself in the best way, concludes Anders Hedberg.
The SOM-project is a part of the Strategic Innovation Program for Internet of Things, IoT Sweden which is financed by Vinnova. The project began on 1 September 2017 and continues until 30 June 2020.
Translation Ben Dohrmann