Tag Archives: cerescon

StartLife Alumni Updates – May 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members.

3 million euros for Cerescon’s asparagus harvesting robot

StartLife alumnus since 2015 

Cerescon's asparagus harvesting robot: Sparter

Cerescon, the developer of the very first selective asparagus harvesting robot, Sparter, seems to benefit from the impact of the coronavirus. Many growers of asparagus, the ‘white gold’, are currently confronted with a 30% shortfall in manual harvesters. “Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, interest in Sparter has doubled now that harvesters are even thinner on the ground,” explains Mark van Lier, international sales manager at Cerescon. A Dutch informal has recently invested an additional 3 million euro in the company. Cerescon will be using this extra capital to boost sale and production of Sparter, after the 1-row self-propelling harvesting robot was put through its paces during the current asparagus harvesting season.

Read the full press release.

Livestock management software company Serket receives 350,000 euros early phase funding

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 Cohort 

Serket - Livestock Management Software

Serket, a software company that aims to revolutionize the livestock farming industry, has recently been granted a loan of 350,000 euro from the Early Phase Funding initiative of Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (Netherlands Enterprise Agency). The loan is used to further develop their Piguard software, an innovative Livestock Health Management application that uses regular security cameras and artificial intelligence to identify health, reproduction and environmental changes early on and translate visual information into actionable data.

Sponsh Finalist In Europe’s Best Social Entrepreneurs Tournament

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 Cohort 

Sponsh - Water from Air

Sponsh, a Dutch startup that extracts water from air to fight water shortage, has been selected for the 2020 edition of the Social Innovation Tournament (SIT), the flagship initiative of the EIB Institute’s social program recognizing and supporting Europe’s best social entrepreneurs. The finalists, whose primary purpose is to generate a social, ethical or environmental impact, were selected from an group of 216 candidates in 31 countries. The finals take place in Lisbon on 8 October – in which all the finalists will have to present and defend their project before a jury of social innovation specialists.


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Founder Story Cerescon | Starting the asparagus-revolution

StartLife has a large network of startups. These startups have inspiring founders who are willing to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. This Founder Story is an interview with Thérèse van Vinken, one of the co-founders of Cerescon.

It all started in the province of Brabant, 17 years ago. Thérèse and Ad van Vinken and Marc Vermeer decided to do something about the issues with foreign workers in the asparagus sector. Marc was an asparagus farmer and Ad, Thérèse’s husband, had over 30 years’ of experience in machine development and was a co-founder of SoleyTec, another successful high tech startup. Thérèse had studied maths, chemistry, marketing and marketing communications. Ad and Thérèse had always dreamed of starting a business together. Building an automatic selective asparagus harvesting machine with this team was the opportunity they were looking for. It turned out to be a difficult quest but they received a lot of help, in prime part thanks to StartLife.

Several companies had already tried to develop an automatic selective asparagus harvesting machine but they were all unsuccessful and therefore, until recently, asparagus was always harvested manually. Cerescon tried harvesting using different techniques such as radio frequency and radar but they weren’t successful. Finally, in 2014, they had a breakthrough with a capacitive sensor which could measure moisture. Asparagus contains 97% moisture in comparison to soil which only contains 8-12% moisture. This technique enabled the harvesting machine to detect the asparagus’ subsurface and subsequently harvest them before they appeared above ground. Therefore increasing both yield and quality of the asparagus, thus resulting in a higher turnover for the farmer.

Even with the idea, that is just the start of building a business. The team then had to make the technique applicable for farmers by building a reliable machine. They participated in several programmes in an attempt to raise money and subsequently found a private investor. By the end of 2014, when the team had almost given rise to the last sub company, something terrible happened: Marc Vermeer fell severely ill and sadly passed away.

The loss of Marc had a huge impact on Thérèse and Ad. After they had gone through a very difficult period, they decided to fulfil the Marc’s dream and make Cerescon a successful company. Thérèse and Ad realized that with Marc’s death their business has lost their connection to the farming network. Thérèse decided to contact the most innovative and open-minded farmer she could find and pitched their business-proposition like she had never pitched before. Ron Martens, the farmer in question, had seen the failures of other automatic asparagus machines. When asked if he would like to test the Cerescon machine and become the first member of a Cerescon User Group he said: “Mwah” (which meant “yes” in this case). After Ron’s cautious commitment, Cerescon started to expand their User Group. This was of the utmost importance, as they needed a continuous source of user-information.

cereson startlife startup agri food
Thérèse van Vinken | General Manager Cerescon


In the spring of 2015, Cerescon contacted StartLife and joined the Stage Gate Incubation Program. Their coach, Frans Kampers, did entice them with many critical but necessary questions. The “StartLife Personal And Team Assessment (PATA) module” was useful, since it confirmed the balanced composition or their team. “Success within the program was essential for our startup”, Thérèse says, “because it convinced investors”. A tip Thérèse has for startups, is to focus earlier on developing a solid financial plan. “There is even subsidies available for advice on building a financial plan”, she adds. Next to that Cerescon thinks it is important not to give shares away too easily in the beginning as you need the shares in a later stage of your establishment to acquire interest of large investors.

“Cerescon is a professional startup, that finished the Stage Gate Program in a record time”, adds Frans Kampers.

More and more asparagus growers have joined the Cerescon User Group. Now, even the biggest German growers are showing commitment. Cerescon expects to bring the first commercial machine on the market in 2018. Soon, asparagus will be harvested automatically!

Cerescon first startup to pass through the entire StartLife Incubation Program for agriculture and food startups

Cerescon, developer of an automatic asparagus harvester, is the first startup which successfully completed the entire StartLife Incubation Program. StartLife launched the incubation program for agriculture and food startups in the summer of 2015.

Since the beginning of 2014, the team of Cerescon is busy with the development of an asparagus harvesting machine which makes it possible to harvest without manual stabbing asparagus.

Demonstration alpha-machine
In the coming asparagus season, the startup will test their alpha-testing machine throughout the season at an experimental farm of Wageningen UR (University & Research center) in Vredepeel. Starting at the last weeks of the season, the alpha-machine is also tested at three large growers in the Netherlands and Germany.

First prototype in 2018
Thérèse van Vinken, co-founder of Cerescon: “After testing the alpha-machine, we proceeded directly with the development of the beta-version. The beta-version will be extensively tested in the asparagus season of 2017. In 2018, we will bring the first prototypes on the market. After the launch of the prototype we will increase our production and will export the machine worldwide”.

StartLife Incubation Program
After the start of the program in the summer of 2015, a total of 12 startups entered the program. The program consists of three rounds and offers startups access to financing via a pre-seed loan for each round and personal coaching. Van Vinken: “Following the program was for us very valuable. StartLife has challenged us within the program to be critical towards our current ideas and future growth plans.”

Jan Meiling, director StartLife: “We are very excited about the team of Cerescon. They have lots of contact with prospective customers through a self-created user group and are a complementary team. They have the potential to become a market leader. ”