AUTh launched a “Call for Challenges” (phase I), asking Greek farmers to present their real needs and problems on the farm that may be solved through PA (Precision Agriculture). Upon the deadline of the call on the 25th of June 2020, out of two different challenges that were finally submitted, the challenge presented by a certified organic family herb farm, specialized in Greek oregano and high-quality essential oil products was selected.
The Challenge that the farm is facing nowadays refers to the exact calculation of the harvesting time. The family farm needs to know when exactly to harvest by monitoring the carotenoids of the cultivated Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum) in order to get the highest quality of essential oil, in conjunction with the weather conditions (temperature and humidity). The students had to propose a solution to a parcel of land 0.6 ha located in North of Greece, in a small village. The farmer has never tried other solutions to solve the aforementioned problem and have never used the Business Model Canvas, so the opportunity to get hands-on ideas by young enthusiastic students, that have participated in the SPARKLE moodle platform was highly appreciated.
“I am open to ideas from the students, they are at the top of their craft and why not to actually incorporate some improvements they learned that will help me change my business model through PA” [Michalis farmer,
The Sparkle Business Model Competition aimed to allow students to test and validate all aspects of a business model with real agricultural companies. The competition to solve the problem was addressed to all the students participating in the Sparkle project that have successfully completed the course, it was an opportunity to put into practice the knowledge acquired by their training courses. An email was send to all of them with description of the challenge and basic rules of the competition. During the first virtual meeting the challenge was described by the farmer to the students and the SPARKLE team gave all information about the steps and documents to be prepared for the submission of a proposal.
The students themselves formed three groups (phase II). One group with 4 students, the other one with 4 and one with 3 students. During the course of the competition one team dropped out and one student from the last team also dropped out due to lack of time; so at the end two groups of students started working on the BM.
SPARKLE AUTh team appointed 5 tutors/internal experts for the students, that dedicated time on a weekly basis. They gave advise to the two groups, without influencing them. Three professors were helping the teams all the way (one specialized on the biochemical composition of herbs and ways to improve it, one specialized on Precision Agriculture and one on management of a farm). In addition the farmer himself had skype meetings with the teams to answer questions and provide any information needed and 2 experts; one in PA tools and one in BMC provided additional advice and mentoring to the teams.
The two teams of students provided on the 6th of October the following:
- Business Model Canvas
- Impact PA Analysis
- Innovation Canvas | Proposal of technological improvement
- Video, resuming main aspects of the proposal
On Monday the 5th of October the winning team was announced by the AUTh jury (phase IV). Basic criteria were originality, innovative potential, feasibility of the idea, as well as good quality of the report. “SPARKLERS”, the name of the team was the winner but all students felt like winners as they documented:
[…] “It was a job that required a lot of research and critical thinking as we had to combine all our knowledge and adapt all the information to the specific problem. We managed to work together to delegate responsibilities and of course we had the opportunity to communicate with experienced people and draw from them many positive elements in addition to knowledge. Collaboration and team spirit mainly, of course knowledge and a lot of information and many hours of work I think are the most appropriate words that describe our experience. I believe that it was a unique experience and with great pleasure I would participate again in a similar project, I hope our team will continue in other competitions” [Giannis-student]
The winning team will next follow a week’s Intrapreneurship Experience on the farm!