Agriculture start-up fights carbon with drones
In December 2010, three young entrepreneurs, Florent Mainfroy, Corentin Chéron and Romain Faroux, became the directors of new business start-up Airinov.
Airinov started in the research laboratory of their engineering school. Here, Florent Mainfroy and Corentin Chéron created their first prototype of drone, a fully automated aircraft. The prototype was successful in the French national competition 2008 “Challenge Drone”, and so both students decided to pursue their idea. The prototype was then adapted for the agricultural industry through an opportune meeting with Romain Faroux, a farmer’s son. With their idea, the new trio enhanced their technical skills by completing a business training course “Challenge+” at HEC Paris, the most famous French Business School. As a result, they won a national competition, giving them funding for their idea and future business. Airinov was born.
Airinov is developing a fully automated aerial cartography system for environmental and agricultural applications. It can either deliver multispectral maps to be analyzed by biologists or compute agronomic diagnosis for direct use by farmers. The technology delivers advanced and detailed information about crops to predict how much fertilizer, pesticide and water is required at the right place. As a result, Airinov preserves both crops yields and the environment through accuracy.
By diagnosing the crops needs, Airinov gives farmers the opportunity to enhance the crops quality and yields whilst reducing the use of fertilizers, pesticides and water. The farmers could both reduce their nitrogen-fertilizer by 10% and increase their crops yields by 3% on rape by using Airinov. This saves 75€ per hectare, which comes to 9000 € in savings over one year.
Airinov and Climate–KIC
During their business training, Airinov was offered the chance to liaise with the French National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA), who provided technical expertise. As core partner of Climate-KIC, INRA encouraged the start-up to enter the Climate-KIC Venture Competition 2011 to gain visibility and potentially win the prize money. With an excellent product, Airinov came fourth and attracted great interest from Climate-KIC. As a result, Climate-KIC offered to help the start-up by co-financing with INRA recruitment of a post-doctoral researcher for a complementary study of the project. Hosted by INRA, the new researcher uses the material and know-how of the institute to transform the cartographical data collected by the drone into a readable map.
The young Airinov entrepreneurs attended a Climate-KIC Masterclass in the Netherlands, offering them business oriented training. The trio have benefitted from similar events and Climate-KIC activities The start-up expressed its gratitude by sharing its experience with students from the Climate-KIC Master programme and summer school, the Climate-KIC Journey.
Airinov is today a viable enterprise that has found its niche in the market and its own clientele. Their success stems most from the combined talents of Florent Mainfroy, Corentin Chéron and Romain Faroux. The trio recognizes that Climate-KIC offered them unique opportunities they would have not been able to reach independently.
Florent Mainfroy, co-founder of Airinov: “Climate-KIC came at the right moment for us. The first months are critical for a start-up, financial and business support is something essential during this period. We met the right people and the right institutions that reached out to us. Climate-KIC was one of them. They took more risks than us; they financed Airinov more than our capital stock. By being part of the Climate-KIC process, we availed of the Community coaching which delivered to us a business expertise we lacked. We assisted to various high quality Conferences and Training. We met high-level students that are potential associates for us, it is a real talent pool. We extended our network to local and international structures and gained access to the market thanks to them. Climate-KIC was a great opportunity.”