We developed a system to improve irrigation control, generating an increase in farmers’ productivity as well as in their quality of life. Raks aims to reduce water waste and water resources, impacting society as a whole.
When Brazil experienced a water crisis during the summer of 2014 and 2015, high school classmates Fabiane Kuhn and Guilherme Ramos started researching water usage in the country. At the time, water reservoirs were operating at dead volume and people were thirsty. The students discovered that 70 percent of the world’s water is destined for agriculture and 50 percent is lost during irrigation. “Technology was lacking in the agriculture sector, so in 2015 we started developing a research project,” says Fabiane. They developed a system to optimize irrigation processes, helping farmers to produce more with less water and energy resources. Soil-moisture sensors, powered by solar panels, are set in the field and transmit data through wireless communication. “We joined science fairs in Brazil and the United States, but even though the idea had great potential, it was too academic.” In 2017, fresh out of high school, they founded Raks with another classmate, Vinicius Müller.
After an accelerator season in the US, they returned to Brazil to finalize the patent for their technology. Raks now operates in eleven Brazilian states, working with rural producers involved in different crops and segments. “We didn’t start selling in 2018 as we had planned but in 2021,” says Fabiane. “We have a lot of competitors that use weather data to support farmers. We’ve already done some experiments comparing our solution with theirs, and we managed to save thirty percent more water and electricity than methods that don’t involve soil sensors.”
As the team started their entrepreneurship early in their careers, Fabiane admits they had zero experience in the area. “We didn’t know how to open a company or how to manage it. Our electronic circuit wouldn’t last two days in the field. We had a vision, and that was it.” Getting the support of an incubator was crucial to getting Raks off the ground and teaching them how to build not only a team but also the company culture. Today, the team comprises eleven people, and Fabiane looks for proactivity when hiring new members. “It’s a bit cliché, but because we are young, we need people willing to control some departments independently. When you work in a startup, you assume several roles, so proactivity and flexibility help us deal with the problems.” By focusing on the proactive profile, the Raks leaders can teach their new hires any technical skills that might be missing.
- Achieving third place in the embedded systems category at INTEL ISEF, the world’s largest science and engineering fair (USA, 2016).
- Winning the The International Society for Optics and Photonics Special Award at INTEL ISEF (USA, 2016).
- Winning the 2016 Mercosur Prize for Science and Technology.
- Being selected for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator in 2019.
- Receiving R$1.7 million in funding over 2 rounds.