GründerStart-Initiative supports CROP.ZONE in entering international markets
RWTH Aachen University and the Aachen Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK Aachen) have joined forces to take the Aachen-based start-up to the next level. Entering a strategic partnership with GründerStart-Initiative GmbH (GSI), a joint pre-seed fund of the university and the IHK, CROP.ZONE now receives funding to enter the agriculture market in Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany through the innovative groundbreaker program.
CROP.ZONE specializes in the field of weed management and pre-harvest preparation of crops, providing farmers with innovative solutions to control weeds in a competitive, effective, and sustainable way. By pre-treating plants with an organically regulated conductive liquid (Volt.Fuel) and sequentially applying electrical charge with the help of an electrophysical weeder, the company helps control weeds with a very high degree of efficiency and lower energy consumption than conventional weeding technologies.
RWTH Innovation Sprint as a starting block
The new investment by GSI is just the latest chapter in the young start-up’s history. CROP.ZONE’s rapid success story began in late 2019 with the participation of Prof. Conrath’s Department of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the Institute of Biology III (Plant Physiology) in the research project “Vegetation Control on Railroad Tracks” at RWTH Aachen University, before culminating in the official foundation of the start-up in December 2019 and the subsequent testing of the technology throughout the remainder of the year. How can one go from research project to start-up foundation in so little time? Turning research results into innovative technologies in less than 3 months requires extensive expertise, visionary thinking, and entrepreneurial ambition of the team members, but also the commercial viability of the envisioned product. Validating the commercial potential in turn requires the financial means to do so. This is where the RWTH Innovation Sprint came into play.
Tech transfer through the RWTH Innovation Sprint
As a pilot project of the RWTH Innovation Sprint, CROP.ZONE received financial support from December 2019 to May 2020 during the critical validation phase to develop and build a working prototype of their electrophysical weeder in combination with Volt.Fuel, the conductive fluid. The RWTH Innovation Sprint is a unique financing measure offered by RWTH Aachen University and managed by RWTH Innovation within the “Exzellenz Start-up Center.NRW” initiative to bridge the gap between academic research and marketable technology. The quick possibility of seed funding can help remove one of the earliest and biggest hurdles researchers face in tech transfer, the cost involved in constructing a prototype. By enabling researchers to manifest their ideas in a prototype and advance the technology of their product, the RWTH Innovation Sprint helps closing the innovation gap. In this way, it allows the full potential of excellent research results to be turned into deep tech start-ups and the quality of the resulting product to be maximized.
A prime example of how to get your start-up running
Three months after their participation in the pilot phase of the RWTH Innovation Sprint, CROP.ZONE had a finished prototype built with LBBZ GmbH that has since been tested in collaboration with farmers around Aachen. The commercial product that resulted from this testing will soon be put to use in a groundbreaker early adopters programme in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for the entire 2021 season. The new partnership with GSI brings CROP.ZONE one step closer to full industrial production for the official launch of their product in late 2021. The RWTH Innovation Sprint and the new partnership have paved the way for further funding and cooperation with partners in the tri-border region. “We are delighted to have found a strategic partner with roots in RWTH Aachen, helping us to adapt the latest technologies and bring them to market. The investment of GSI will be used to extend our patent portfolio and will be invested into further R&D”, concludes Dirk Vandenhirtz, CEO of CROP.ZONE.
We are equally delighted to see RWTH research come to life in the success story of CROP.ZONE. The young start-up’s spearheading role in the RWTH Innovation Sprint – application deadline is currently open until January 15, 2021 (more info here) - proves the necessity and effectiveness of prototype funding. We are proud of CROP.ZONE’s progress and beyond excited for the road ahead!