First of all, we wish all peaceful space farmers a very productive and healthy 2019.
AstroPlant enables a large, committed community to contribute to science and technology, and learn, explore and create.
Yes, we have a vision! Thanks to our fantastic partner MOBGEN Labs, who supported us in designing and developing the future AstroPlant interaction (an application), but more fundamentally organised a full-day workshop at ESTEC to get to a common goal and strategy for 2019.
Our vision encapsulates our goal of providing the framework, infrastructure, necessary tools and support for people to engage with science, contribute to it, and also enables them to tinker with it and come up with new scientific (and other) ideas that benefit society. AstroPlant is successful when we can do that..
- through a sustainable business model (sustainable);
- when the experience is user-friendly and engaging (engaging);
- when this experience can be had by people from different kinds and backgrounds (accessible and affordable).
Now the strategy, the difficult part. Although it was clear that our focus in 2019 would be on deploying the first AstroPlant pilots in schools and other educational contexts, the question remained how to do that while keeping it affordable. A strategy can be sketched in a single day, but working out the details takes a bit longer, and sometimes can only be done through trial and error.
We developed ideas for strategy and business model by starting at AstroPlant basics. What does it do, what problems does it address, whose problems are they, what gains (and pains) can we already determine, and by coming up with several focus areas, see below.
After brainstorming and agreeing on the AstroPlant basics, and defining the its added value, we came up with the earlier mentioned vision (what kind of company AstroPlant wants to be) and also defined our mission (how we expect to get there). An important and interesting part of the workshop was the ideation phase where took inspiration from various existing business models to come up with relevant and feasible business opportunities for AstroPlant, including Spotify, game platform Candy Crush, Uber, Kickstarter, Adobe, Github, Marktplaats, and Albert Heijn (supermarket chain).
Ultimately, we came to a short- and long-term business model. In summary, on the short term we want to explore the possibility of working with intermediary partners through a global network of maker spaces and other institutes who offer (technical/scientific) educational projects to schools as well as the support. It’s their business to find and provide projects (and products) like AstroPlant, and it would at the same time alleviate the future demand for support as these partners are tech-savvy and could provide that (partially). Among other things, we would create a revenue stream through pay-per-user, hardware sales, and some support.
The future business model would be aimed at providing third-parties (scientific partners) access to the citizen science network, and providing them access to the data and analytics. So in the scenario that the European Association of Cheesemakers wants to deploy a trans-European Space-Cheese experiment and contest through our network, and wants to retrieve valid data about the circumstances in which the different cheeses are made, then that can be done. We would offer the network, the modifications, and offer educational services and customised content that engages the citizen scientists and introduces them into the wondrous world of space-cheese. By the way, the reference to space is optional, experiments clearly can be solely terrestrial.
Such a tech-enabled citizen science network does not yet exist, but current IoT technologies, emergence of maker-spaces, and a recent societal interest in interdisciplinary science and technology projects in and outside of schools would enable such a network to emerge.
We’ve come a long way in 2018, with a working prototype (completely open source on Github), a small community of early adopters and clients (we shipped 20 kits!), an office at The New Farm in The Hague, a storage and assembly room, finally a growth protocol to be used by the first group of participants as well as educational content for 10-14 year olds, a solid group of partners (ESA Education, MELiSSA Consortium, MOBGEN, Pezy Group, Avionics, TU Delft). Next up: running the first real pilot (participants in Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium).
Join us to continue and accelerate this trend in 2019!