Going home with four awards in total, one of which a wildcard for the Dutch 4TU Impact Challenge, sanSpore was the big winner at the TU Delft Impact Contest final. That makes sense, if you realise that they were the runner-up at this year’s highly competitive ClimateLaunchpad regional final.
“It was an amazing experience and such a boost for our confidence and motivation!”, Rebecca van den Elshout, one of sanSpore’s five co-founders, excitedly shares.
What’s curious about their multidisciplinary team, is that they’re all TU Delft students filled to the brink with technical knowledge; the only crucial piece of the puzzle they missed was entrepreneurial experience. “We had none whatsoever.”, Rebecca smiles. They caught up on that during the TU Delft Impact Contest and ClimateLaunchpad, and are now a contender to be reckoned with.
“We have an edge on the competition”, says Rebecca, “because we monitor in real-time, as opposed to current technology that has farmers waiting several weeks until the results of a test are in. They’re very detailed, but during that time the fungi have already spread and it’s too late to take action.”
Their technology can also be applied outside, in open field farming, but for now their focus is on greenhouses. That’s because they are controlled environments and in the Netherlands modern greenhouses are already decked out with tech; ‘the more tech, the merrier’ a farmer could say.
Being in South Holland, the Westland (with its high density of greenhouses) has sanSpore’s attention. “Especially strawberry growers have shown an interest in our fungi detection device, because they require quite a lot of pesticides and it’s a pricey and therefore valuable crop.”, Rebecca explains.
When push comes to shove
Rebecca describes the TU Delft Impact Contest final as a euphoric moment, where she and her team were overwhelmed by their success. “We have such busy lives besides sanSpore, so it really gave us a push in the right direction – onward and upward.”
The industry experts were invaluable to them (in particular a visit to Siemens’ Digital Experience Center in The Hague) and pitching was something Rebecca normally never did; this newly acquired skill will now come in handy at the Dutch 4TU Impact Challenge final. The prize money they won will help further develop their prototype and it can pay for running tests, which aren’t cheap.
For students who might be interested in becoming an entrepreneur, Rebecca has the following advice: “Have a look at all the opportunities the university offers; what might help you get on your way?” She’s referring to the Student Entrepreneurial Journey overview. “Also realise you don’t have to go at it alone, because other students could very well be on the same journey you are.”