SmartNest – a youthful startup team working with tech and chickens

SmartNest was founded by Gabrijela MatićSilvija Matić, and Blaž Perić on December 3rd of last year during the Smart City Challenge. And, while they might be youthful in age and their startup young in terms of its existence, they have managed to accumulate some interesting successes that made us take notice of their work.

So far, the SmartNest team won 1st place at the Smart City Challenge hackathon, 1st place at Demo Day, and 3rd place at the STup! international university startup competition.

But when asked what is the most interesting thing about SmartNest, the abovementioned successes aren’t the first thing they shared, but they wanted us to know this: “Behind the idea and the success so far is a 3-person team composed of a high school student and two university students.

We might be young, but we are dedicated and ready to work to help the local and global community.”

And we’re sure that they will! But before they do, they answered a few questions we had for them. So, let’s hear the SmartNest story, shall we?!

What problem is SmartNest trying to solve?

“SmartNest wants to help farmers identify inefficiencies in their chicken coops. The system recognizes which hens are laying eggs and which are not. Furthermore, it makes it easier for farmers to identify chickens whose purpose needs to be changed.

Blaž pitching the SmartNest to the jury and audience of the international university startup competition STup!2023

In addition, various sensors are used to determine the actual conditions inside the chicken house, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, humidity, temperature, and light. The previously mentioned information and analytics enable productivity improvement and numerous tips for farmers on how to achieve this.”

How did you get the idea for SmartNest?

“The idea was proposed by Blaž who wanted to help his father. His family has chickens, but not a large quantity of them, which makes expensive and complicated monitoring systems unprofitable.

He wanted to find a successful and inexpensive way to help smaller farmers reduce losses.”

What is the biggest obstacle the SmartNest team faced so far?

“The biggest obstacle in our work was that Gabrijela and Silvija were away for some time studying abroad as part of an Erasmus program, making team communication slightly more complicated.

The solution was a regular weekly video call and the use of various project collaboration tools. This allowed us to successfully overcome the distance and make progress in our work despite it.”

And what about the biggest mistake and lessons learned from it?

“Definitely the biggest mistake we made was trying to use artificial intelligence and “computer vision” for our system. Unfortunately, such an approach turned out to be too complex and we were unable to solve the problem of false positives and negatives during detection.

From that experience, we learned that it is important to monitor our options and not ignore simpler and more efficient alternatives.

Instead, we redirected our approach and used NFC rings that every chicken has around its leg. This turned out to be a more elegant and simpler solution that got the job done effectively. We have learned that sometimes the less complicated solution can be the best.”

A big smile after winning 3rd place at the international university startup competition STup!2023 as the youngest competitor
What is the best thing about working on developing a startup like SmartNest?

“We think the best thing about our startup is that we love the work we do with SmartNest and that we are developing a solution to make farmers’ lives and businesses easier. All three of us grew up in the countryside and we know first-hand how it is for the future users of our technology, so our motivation is at a high level.

We also get along really well as a team and we solve everything together.

We’ve been friends since day one, and that’s why we can rely on each other with full confidence. Having a pleasant working environment is really important and we believe that it is a key factor for the success of companies, especially startups.”

What is your experience of launching and working on a startup idea right here in Croatia?

“So far, our experience has been very positive. A significant number of people have supported us and are continuing to help us improve with their useful advice.”

Having learned a thing or two during this process, what piece of advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your startup journey with SmartNest?

“Owning a business is tough, but – if you let your passion shine – clients, investors, and partners will see that and respond positively to it.”

Any future plans for SmartNest you would like to share?

“We plan to continue working on empowering and supporting small and medium-sized farmers with technological solutions to optimize the operation of the chicken coop, ensure efficient egg production, and improve animal welfare.

We started with a tech solution to improve the lives of chickens, but we want to include the other farm animals, as well.”

We’d like to thank Blaž, Gabrijela, and Silvija for sharing the SmartNest story with us and wish them lots of success in all their future endeavors! 😀

Photos: Student Business Incubator

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