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Italy’s olive oil startup Elaisian “talks” to trees by using high tech algorithms

by Maria Teresa Manuelli

Precision agriculture and wi-fi connections to save olive trees. This, in short, is the mission carried out by Italian food tech startup called Elaisian, founded by three young entrepreneurs in November last year.

“Thanks to an agronomic algorithm,” said Damiano Angelici, Elaisian CEO, “we can give olive oil producers advice on what’s best to be done and the ideal timing to do it: the end result is a reduction in costs and an increase in production.”

How does it work? Some special devices are installed in a given olive grove (each device, on average, covers 500 trees, approximately 2 hectares). The devices collect climatological data, rainfall, degree of humidity, temperature, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b, beta-carotene…

The data are transmitted via wi-fi to the web platform, which develops an algorithm by cross-referencing the data transmitted with those measured by agronomic studies, in collaboration with the University of Perugia.

Growers have their own, individual access to the platform, where they can get all necessary information in real time: advice on when and how to take action, both in the day-to-day business and in emergencies, where they are alerted via text message or email.
The platform can recognize possible issues, such as attacks by pathogens, nutritional deficiencies and plant stress.

“In this manner the status of olive groves is monitored in real time and growers can fight plant disease and maximize efficiency, with a consequent reduction in costs and increase in crops,” said Angelici. “Thanks to the platform’s alert system, they can act fast and avoid, for instance, the spreading of pathogens that could compromise production, and they can nourish their trees so they yield their full potential.”

Elaisian founders are Giovanni Di Mambro (COO), Gabriele Allegrini (CTO) and Damiano Angelici (CEO).

“We met when we were working for another startup and felt the need to do something for olive trees: I come from a family that’s been working in the olive-growing sector for over 80 years and after the umpteenth lost crop, I decided I’d try to solve the problem,” said Angelici.

According to tests, Elaisian can reduce costs for fertilizers, agronomic consultancies and labor by 50%.

The founders came up with the idea last summer and the first prototype was finished in August 2016. After two months’ field tests, producers started using it: to date, over 10 growers in six regions (Lazio, Campania, Abruzzi, Apulia, Tuscany, Umbria) are using the device.

“We are thinking of increasing capital shortly,” said Angelici,  “which will enable us to gain access to the market by the coming fall.”

The objective is getting to major Italian producers and then tackling the Spanish market. The idea, though, can be applied to other areas, like fruit growing.

Elaisian has become a partner of Flos Olei, the guidebook to extra virgin olive oils world-wide. Picked out of 600 projects from 56 countries, the startup is financed by Startupbootcamp, an international accelerator fund investing in innovative companies.