Tag Archives: B-Mex

B-Mex New Startup Tenant at Plus Ultra II

B-Mex PlusUltra2

StartLife warmly welcomes B-Mex, a StartLife startup and WUR spin-off, into the startup offices at Plus Ultra II. The company is specialized in making crop models that provide growers and farmers with valuable insights and help optimize their crop yield. The company moved to Wageningen Campus to be closely to connected to its ecosystem and be close to talents of Wageningen University & Research.

After an academic career of 23 years in research and modelling at Wageningen University & Research, crop physiologist dr. Fokke Buwalda decided to turn his many and highly cited papers about crop models into practical tools for growers and farmers. At the end of 2013 he started B-Mex, a service provider aimed at enabling greenhouse growers to apply scientific simulation models to maximize yields, lower spoilage and reduce costs.

As a spin-out of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, Fokke had, and still has, access to cutting edge scientific knowledge and models. In 2015, Biosystems Engineer Peter van Beveren joined the team, whereas Plant Scientist and modeler Jeroen Boonekamp joined forces with B-Mex in 2019.

Today, B-Mex serves growers of cut flowers, pot plants and greenhouse vegetables. And recently, simulation models for potato, onion and soil conditions were added to the B-Mex portfolio.

A Chrystal ball for growers and farmersPotatoes-and-Gerberas

For many growers it’s very difficult to predict their yields as they still rely on gut feeling and best practices. But mathematical models can in fact predict the effect of changes in growing conditions really accurately, Fokke explains. With a laugh Fokke says, “We are pretty much offering a Chrystal ball to growers and farmers. But one that utilizes cutting-edge science and mathematics.”

“Mathematical models can accurately predict the effect of changes in growing conditions.“

“Take Gerbera daisies, for example. It’s one of the five most popular plants in the world. If a grower wants to have as many Gerberas as possible, let’s say for Valentine’s day or Mother’s day, he needs to know three months in advance what needs to be done today to optimize future yields. Our mathematical and computational methods provide the grower the with the insight needed to achieve the best results.”

Another example are potatoes. They don’t need to reach full maturation before harvest. On the contrary, potatoes are often grown for a specific size. “A potato farmer needs to know when it’s time to kill the foliage to stop the further growth of its potatoes. With our models and tools we can accurately predict when it’s time for the farmer to start killing the foliage of his potato plants.”

Scaling up the business

Fokke says, “In all fairness, as a seasoned academic it took me some time to develop my entrepreneurial skills. I feel confident now that the B-Mex team will take the company to the next level though. And I am as much grateful for the valuable support StartLife has provided me in the past as for the opportunity they have provided us now to move into the startup offices at Plus Ultra 2 and become an integral part of the innovation community here at Wageningen Campus.”

“Our business is going well and also the future is looking bright. In the coming months, we expect to recruit several new employees. And in the next few years, we also expect a considerate increase in the number of clients. Which will eventually lead to the recruitment of more talents.” It’s for this very reason that the B-Mex team moved their company to Wageningen Campus.

Agrifood innovation powerhouse

“I strongly believe that having our business situated in the heart of the agrifood innovation community will allow us to connect easier with stakeholders and also have better access to the many talented students of Wageningen University. Even though we’ve just moved in the Plus Ultra 2 building, and it’s relatively quiet at the moment due to the Corona pandemic, we already notice positive network effects. We’ve definitely made the right decision to move here and look forward to expanding our business here in the years ahead.”


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Founder Story B-Mex | Creating value with greenhouse-science

StartLife has a large network of start-ups. All of these startups have powerful inspiring founders who are willing to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. In order to give these founders a platform to share on, we started the StartLife Founder Stories. This story is an interview with Fokke Buwalda, founder of B-Mex.

b-mex startlife startup buwalda

“Greenhouse growers don’t want to experiment with their crop. They are looking for answers. The products we make are similar to the development from road maps to navigation systems”, says Fokke, “local data were already present, but now the effect of changes in growing conditions can be predicted accurately.” Via the web service which is provided by B-Mex, growers can gain insight into their crop performance.

Fokke Buwalda started his career as an Eco-physiologist (the study of the interactions between plants and their environment). Over time, he gained considerable knowledge about the influence of environmental factors on plants. Together with Gerrit van Straten and Ido Seginer, he set up a large European research project aimed at applying crop science into mathematical models. The project resulted in applicable models and many highly cited papers. However, the models never reached the market. It became a pattern: at the end of each project, the next step, i.e. a company investing in commercialization of the model, never eventuated. Gradually, Fokke became frustrated: valuable knowledge was not finding its way into practice, but disappeared in scientific reports. As a hobby, he started to develop mathematical models for himself.

In 2011, Fokke met Jan Meiling. Jan organized a business challenge and invited him to participate. Like many academics, Fokke knew very little about entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, together with two fellow researchers, he submitted a plan to commercialize a simulation model designed to predict pepper yields. Although Fokke and his team didn’t win the award, they were invited by Jan for a workshop by Wietze van der Aa on setting up service-oriented startups. That training was a real eye-opener: suddenly Fokke realized that he could start a business himself, rather than waiting for others to invest in his ideas.

At the same time, Wageningen University and Research announced a reorganization. Fokke seized the opportunity and resigned from his permanent position by the end of 2013. His employer had become aware the importance of knowledge valorization. As a result, a comprehensive licensing agreement was reached, granting Fokke’s company B-Mex access to the latest advancements in horticultural science and exclusive rights to commercialize simulation models.

In October 2015, Peter van Beveren joined B-Mex. He is an expert on simulation models for energy management in greenhouses. Expanding the team was of utmost importance: “even though I am a jack of all trades, time is always limited”, says Fokke. At the moment, B-Mex’s team consists of four employees. Another lesson learned was that it is crucial to focus on the planned trajectory when starting a company. Sometimes it is wise to outsource work or to seek partnerships with other companies rather than try it yourself and stagnate. StartLife provided him with the right network. Now, B-Mex is able to make valuable knowledge practically available in the greenhouse industry.

“B-Mex is an example of a true university spin-out. They showed that cooperation between spin-out and university is needed to commercialize scientific insights” – Gitte Schober, Centre of Entrepreneurship Wageningen & StartLife.