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June Edition 2021

Riku Niemelä, GrainSense CEO: ‘When you know your grain quality, you can make the right decisions at the right time’


It is a well-known fact that grains are an integral part of staple food and it is consumed globally. Just like for any other food crop, quality is an important factor in grain cultivation. Generally, laboratory tests are done on food crops to determine their quality, but this method is very time-consuming and difficult to perform, thus making them less viable to determine the quality of the crops. In the digital world we live in, many emerging technologies are used in various fields like healthcare and finance to solve complex problems. Similarly, the need for development has also hit the agricultural sector to leverage emerging technologies and come up with solutions that are cost-effective, accurate, and rapid.

Globally, there are various companies delivering excellent solutions to measure the quality of grains, but GrainSense stands out from the rest. GrainSense is manufacturing the GrainSense Analyzer, a handheld battery-powered grain quality meter that utilizes NIR technology. You receive reliable protein, moisture, oil, and carbohydrate content in seconds from just a few kernels. In addition to hardware, the GrainSense solution contains a cloud service where the users can store their results with the GPS location of the measurement taken. The users can track and manage the results with the GrainSense App and GrainSense Dashboard. By tracking grain quality instantly, anywhere, GrainSense users can make the right decisions at the right time and act on every opportunity.

In conversation with Riku Niemelä, CEO of GrainSense

Q. Can you take us through the journey of the company right from its beginning to the point where it unwaveringly stands today?

In the early 2010s, the Technical Research Centre in Finland, known as VTT, ran a project to transform traditional, bulky Near-Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy lab equipment into a convenient handheld format. The project’s key innovation was the use of an integrating sphere combined with absorbance spectroscopy and the development of low-noise and low-power consumption NIR detectors for ambient temperatures. Scandinavian agriculture influencers understood that the technology could answer the urgent need for a solution to help grain sector businesses track grain quality. At the end of 2014, as a spin-off of VTT, GrainSense was born. I am happy to say that nowadays, GrainSense is experiencing a phase of strong international growth. During the last two years, GrainSense has transformed from an innovative start-up to a fast-growing scale-up organization. Our innovation reached the market fit level very fast, successfully passing the proof of technology and proof of business stages.

Q. Farming/Agriculture technology requires lots of rational thinking and research. How do you maintain efficiency of your services?

“Know your grain, grow your business” is our main slogan. GrainSense aims to offer products and services, improving the sustainability and financial results in the agriculture value chain. To succeed, it is essential to receive qualified feedback from the different market areas and market segments. Our Value Added Distribution (VAD) network has an important role in this process. Being experts in their area, our VADs have already been the driving forces for some new features we added to our services. Remaining efficient is indeed a key success factor. This means for us to focus on our core competencies and to set prioritizations in the right order. We are flexible to adapt our resources on a project basis by utilizing competencies from trusted external partner networks.

Q. Advanced farming involves the implementation of cutting-edge technology for bolstering crop growth. Here, getting farmers thoroughly acquainted with the concept of technology and smart farming becomes problematic. What is your approach to overcoming this issue?

The good thing is, very many grain growers, livestock farmers, silo/ dryer operators, traders and players in the food industry have become aware that they must make critical decisions about grain – but often without quick access to key information. An increasing share of the farming industry is actively following technology trends in the industry. These smart farmers pay attention on learning about possibilities to improve quality and profitability. Success stories are growing significantly and actively discussed. Positive as well as negative experiences are shared in the different forums. Since the beginning, GrainSense has been keen on understanding the grain market needs. We have published interesting case studies in different market environment, where our user describe how GrainSense was helping them to make the right decisions at the right time. We continue intensifying an active information exchange with our clientele by arranging webinars and by publishing more local testimonials.

Q. What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

In a modern, fast moving business environment like the Agtech world, it is crucial to share responsibilities and build a professional, self-directed management team to achieve the set goals. An important role for the CEO is to set goals high enough, ensure growth tools and build a path to achieve them. As developing as a leader, the desire to learn new things and continuous learning play an important role. This can be done by listening in your own work environment in daily conversations, but especially by following industry news and technological developments. Training and courses are also necessary to stay up to date.

Q. What does the future hold for GrainSense Ltd and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?

We will continue our path in fulfilling our  promise of “knowing your grain, growing your business” by “tracking grain quality instantly, anywhere.” Our technology has been proven in a demanding handheld environment, and we are now widening our offering towards implementation as a stationary solution. The GrainSense Flow Analyzer has been developed for analyzing real-time grain quality in an environment where grains are actively flowing. Whether installed in an elevator of a combine harvester or in a silo/dryer, the GrainSense Flow Analyzer measures protein and moisture online during harvesting or processing, or storage. Earlier this year, we launched the GrainSense Flow Analyzer available for pilot installations. With the GrainSense Flow Analyzer, farmers are empowered with the quality data of their grains and fields during the harvesting, drying, and storage processes. The farmer can then make better decisions to maximize the quality and profitability of the harvest.

Q. Meet the leader behind the success of GrainSense

GrainSense CEO, Mr. Riku Niemelä has +20 years of C-level management experience in internationally operating companies. Experience in business development and building growth from different industries, e.g. ICT, logistics & manufacturing.  Niemelä has an eMBA degree in addition to an automation industry technical degree.

“There are over 1000 GrainSense Analyzers in use in over 40 countries around the world – helping farmers and traders make smart decisions.”