Tri Nguyen: “Mimosa is transforming farming with real-time data”

Bertil van Vugt
By on November 18, 2015

Mimosa is a Vietnamese technology startup aiming to improve yields of agribusinesses with their ‘Internet of Things’ solution. Farmers can monitor key indicators in real-time, receive alerts and advise as well as controlling their irrigation devices from a distance via the Mimosa system. We contacted co-founder Tri Nguyen (far right on picture above) to learn more about their ambitions.

Engidu LegesseHow would you describe Mimosa in two sentences?

“We are transforming the way farmers are operating their farm. From ‘experience driven’ to ‘information driven’ in order to help them with real-time data to reduce expenses, avoid risks and increase their yields.“

How did you get the idea to work developing the Mimosa products?

“Before starting Mimosa I built a small strawberry farm in my home town of Dalat. At that time, due to the lack of greenhouse environmental information and as many of us were often away from the farm, I used an open-source electronic prototyping platform called Arduino to monitor the air temperature and humidity in the greenhouse.

The hardware was also connected to the mister devices in the greenhouses. Based on specific conditions of the parameters that I pre-programmed, it would control the mister to spray water inside the greenhouse to maintain the best conditions for the strawberry plants. All information was logged and I was able to check it everyday on the web. I realized that this solution was very helpful for farmers to give them information and the automation will help them to reduce the workload. When the Internet of Things (IoT) trend came and hardware costs were going down and became more reliable we decided to start Mimosa.”

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A Mimosa sensor transmitting information via and GPRS/3G internet connection.

You are creating both the software and the hardware of the Mimosa systems. Can you explain more about how the systems work with each other?

“The system consists out of three components: The hardware, the IoT Cloud Platform and the end user application accessible via desktop/mobile/tablet. The hardware consists out of sensing nodes that collect information from sensors (rain, wind, temperature, humidity, light, soil moisture) and sends this to the controller. This is controller device gathers all data from sensing nodes then sends via the Internet (via mobile GPRS/3G connection) to our cloud platform.

The IoT cloud platform is where all information from every controller comes together and where the data is analyzed to give useful information for farmers. The end user application (desktop/mobile/tablet) is the place for farmer to interact with the whole system via receiving notifications, receiving advice, setting thresholds, getting reports and controlling the water pumps.

Our tests in shrimp farms are based on the same principal but with different sensors and end user applications.”

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On the left: A Mimosa team member shows one of the internet-enabled sensors. On the right: The Mimosa application in action.

Shrimp farms?

“There are also huge opportunities in the aquaculture sector. For example in shrimp farming the success ratio is just about 50% as it is difficult to keep the circumstances optimal. During the production process, farmers need to closely control the water quality, feeding the shrimps and control diseases to be successful. But with the traditional way of managing these tasks, these operations are very risky and often only result in low yields. It is an opportunity to monitor the aquaculture businesses via our dedicated system and improve their yields and income.

We already have a product that manages the oxygen level in shrimp ponds. This system is able to control the aerator system and work smartly to keep both oxygen levels optimal and reduces energy usage. We have proven that with this system per month about $125 electricity cost for farmers can be saved. Our next-step plan is to control a feeder mechanism to control the precise amounts of food to the shrimp pool as this is the largest expense and our system can again reduce those costs.”

What are your biggest challenges right now?

“One of our biggest challenges is to build more test cases with different plant species to prove the increase of yield when our system is used, besides the saving rate of water and energy for irrigation which is as high as 30% to 50%.

Another challenge is changing the Vietnamese smallholder farmers’ mindset in applying new technology. This needs time and we need more convincing results from the tests we are currently running.

The farmers are familiar with the way they have been operating their farm for the past decades, based on habits and their own traditional experiences. They feel comfortable and they just accept that the weather it is sometimes good and sometimes bad. Only a small percentage of farmers looks for other ways to continuously improve their operations.

It is really hard for a start-up like us to change the mindset of farmer as it will need huge resources. We address this by firstly touching the large farms, who can also afford the up-front investment of the Mimosa system.”

How will low-income farmers benefit from this in the long run?

“When we have successful case studies from our customers on the reduction of water, energy and labor resources, other people will recognize the benefits and then we will approach the mass market of small-size farmers.

But first we need to be able to reach thousands of bigger customers to be able to control the cost of the hardware, based on production optimization and on existing customers. When this is realized we are eager to set up a model where we pre-finance the hardware for low-income farmers and calculate a monthly some-dollar service fee to them. With the aim to optimize yield while minimizing expenses and risks, the solution will be able to help low-income farmers to improve their operations, yields and therefore income.”

You participated in the first Inclusive Business Matchmaking Marketplace in Vietnam in September. How was it and did you get new interesting contacts?

“The event was really professional organized and very helpful. This was the first time we joined such an event and we learned that we need to know more about investors that are attending such events to be better prepared for the pitch. We made two useful contacts with investors and now keep following up. “

What are your plans for the next two years?

“We want to become the leading company that is able to apply Internet of Things solutions, not only in agriculture but also in aquaculture.”

 

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