No shortage of beautiful parks in Groningen. Home to many festivals and cultural events, but also the place to chill during warm and sunny days. However, maintenance and cleaning up is costly, not to mention the need to protect the grass, trees and other plant life against an increasing number of visitors. Startup in Residence participant SecGroep uses sensors to monitor the soil and crowds and use the data to help prevent damage and make maintenance easier.
SecGroep was founded in 2017, by Ruben Deddens. A year later Tom Pals joined the company. The startup helps companies and governments with public space sustainability projects, gives advice on tender procedures and also develops software and hardware solutions. “I graduated in landscape engineering and Tom handles the legal side”, Deddens says. “And as for the innovation side, we work with Erik Schoenmaker from Machu. We have a partnership called SecInnovate. Machu is a young company that operates in the Interface between IT And Finance. Together we will be prototyping the first platform.”
Keeping lawns and other vegetation in public parks healthy and thriving the old fashioned way, is difficult and can be a costly affair. In part because once you actually start to see the damage to lawns and other vegetation, it’s either too late or pretty big repair measures have to be taken.
SecGroep developed sensors along with an automated management system, called Sensoty, to monitor the soil condition in real time. “We can measure things like temperature, salinity, humidity and density of the soil”, Deddens explains. “That way, it’s much easier to prevent and predict damage and take active measures beforehand, rather than trying to patch things up when the damage has already been done.”
Great timing, great fit
“The timing of Startup in Residence program was really great for us”, Deddens continues. “And the challenge we signed up for was also a great fit. For us, it’s a great way to showcase and test our sensors in a real life setting with real data.”
Now that the program is almost over, any lessons learned? “I think we were a little too ambitious early on and wanted to monitor the entire Noorderplantsoen”, Deddens laughs. “But together, we decided on a smaller scale, which is actually a lot better, because you can define the scope and test things with better parameters. And I really loved working with the challenge owners, because they’re very constructive and have great ideas.”
Their sensors are currently being tested in the Noorderplantsoen, near the playground. “Our pilot started in November, but you need relevant and practical data of course, which you’re not going to get in the dead of winter when no one’s around. That’s why we’ll keep on monitoring the soil until late May, so we’ll have a couple of warm spring days and see what happens when things get crowded.”
Any plans for the near future? “As SecGroup we have had a terrific start. We want to thrive on this momentum and grow the consulting side, because that is something we love doing, Deddens says. We are currently looking to expand our team with other specialists. “Ideally, we will be able to expand and scale up Sensoty, not as a product, but as the separate company.” Besides Sensoty we also created an augmented reality app named ‘VergroenGroningen’. These are the innovative products we want to operate under SecInnovate.