A boost for companies finding tech solutions for ag. sector

Bill Menkveld of Elmira-based Greentonics Ltd., a recent recipient of seed funding to help with the development of the company’s product line. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

Elmira-based Greentronics Ltd. is one of the ten southwestern Ontario recipients of new seed funding grants, recognized for its agricultural technology.

The grants are provided by Bioenterprise Corporation, a national, non-profit business accelerator in the agricultural technology sector.

The program is delivered by Innovation Guelph, which provides mentorship and business support programs to help innovative enterprises.

This year, $300,000 was distrubuted.

The recipients selected are typically innovative early-stage Ontario businesses in the agriculture and agri-food, sustainable and environmental technology, advanced manufacturing, and social innovation sectors. They’re provided up to $30,000 in non-repayable seed financing, accompanied by coaching and mentorship.

Greentronics developed RiteTrace, a fully automated traceability system that lets growers of root vegetables automatically track their produce from the field into precise built storage locations. The technology caught the eye of granters and lead to them receiving the full $30,000 in seed funding.

“It was really neat how this came together,” said Bill Menkveld of Greentronics Ltd. “The funding has been helpful in a way to encourage us to keep going with the development, so we have done a tremendous amount.”

The seed funding is meant to support final development of sensors and coding for the system as well as marketing, sales and intellectual property protection activities.

“Greentronics utilized the grant to fund advanced coding development in the development of in-field wireless data transfer software, an Android app, and data processing development. The seed funds were also utilized for the creation of multimedia marketing materials, including marketing videos, trade show banners and resources, and general advertising,” said Jennifer Kalanda, marketing manager for Bioenterprise Corporation, noting that the seed funding was also used for IP patent protection and assisted in streamlining their services.

The company designs and manufactures electronic control products for various uses across the agriculture industry, including a sprayer boom controller, working depth controller and yield monitor, among other products.

Founded in 1994, Greentronics has had extensive experience with electronic design and farm equipment – allowing them to make the best use of the latest technology, while ensuring that their products are practical and reliable for everyday use in farming operations.    

Known for their products pertaining directly to the root crop and vegetable industries, the business saw a need to automate the record keeping jobs and precise logging data for harvest dates, times and locations necessary to keeping with food safety regulations – but time consuming for businesses.

“Our product really fits into that. It automates a lot of the steps that they have to comply with, but it also allows for them to track quality characteristics,” said Menkveld, noting that the product allows growers to monitor successful crops all the way from the field through to the storage process, and vice-versa, to figure out where in the process chain any problem has occurred.

Kalanda said the Elmira business received seed funding due to multiple factors, including their strong team of subject matter experts and the innovative technology demonstrated through RiteTrace.

The RiteTrace program makes use of existing farm equipment in the field to create data files. The stacker is equipped with a number of sensors to precisely track and record the position of the unloading point over time. Data is then assembled through custom software developed by Greentronics for  customer interpretation.

Greentronics products sell throughout North America and have reached across the world to the United Kingdom, South Africa, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.

“It finds a place all over now,” said Menkveld of the product.

Though its reach is global, the company is very happy to be based in the township.

“Elmira is a really nice community to be. We have an enormous variety of agriculture right around us,” he said. “It is a very prosperous area; we are very blessed to be here.”

Looking forward, he said he is unsure of what the future holds for Greentronics, but the goals is to build a business with legs so that the next generation of Menkvelds can continue on with it.