Science - October 16, 2017

‘Everyone should participate at least once’

Didi de Vries

With utmost concentration, details are finalised during the last hour of the Mest Hack (‘Manure Hack’). Seven teams worked for 32 hours on IT applications for the manure sector at the Dairy Campus in Leeuwarden.

The aim of the hackathon was to come up with new solutions that would make it easier for farmers to follow legislations and that would make it possible for the government to enforce regulations with increased transparency.

FarmHack.NL organised the two-day hackathon in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research and Dairy Campus. ‘We had participants from the manure sector, but also IT experts who are not familiar with the field but do know how to handle data. That combination allowed the teams to come up with applications in short time’, says Anne Bruinsma, project leader at

Dairy Campus
The Dairy Campus building was perfectly suited to host the hackathon. On Thursday, the teams were spread across several rooms and started with midterm pitches. Thursday evening, the conference tables were replaced by air mattresses, mats, pillows and sleeping bags for the night.

Henri Holster, researcher at Livestock Research, organised the Mest Hack on behalf of WUR. At the last minute, he decided to participate in the hackathon as well. ‘Everyone should participate at least once. At times, you keep drifting between vague concepts and without proper ideas. A hackathon stimulates finding concrete applications within a short amount of time.’ According to Holster, there is a very friendly yet competitive atmosphere between the participants. ‘Especially in the last few hours: teams would get nervous when I so much as walked toward them.’

Especially in the last few hours: teams would get nervous when I so much as walked toward them.

After 32 hours of intensive collaboration, each team was given a few minutes to pitch their concept. One by one, they showed websites and apps that they had made in the hours before. A jury of three proceeded to select two winners of the Mest Hack.

© Didi de Vries

The first winning team had created an application that allows inspectors to see on their smartphone whether registered data of a manure transport and manure surplus, for example, match a real case. This makes enforcement and regulation more transparent and makes it easier to keep an eye on offenders, like farmers who keep more animals than allowed and transporters of large manure cargos.

The second winning team made an online advisory tool that provides advice on fertilising parcels. Farmers can then see the exact influence fertilising the soil will have on the nutrient equilibrium in the entire area. The programme works with GIS data and results of water quality measurements of surface water.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs, who commissioned the Mest Hack, will discuss further development of the applications with the teams.

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