Wants to modernise Norwegian food production
Marius Bratsberg has attended the Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship at NHH and learnt simple measures that can make or break an idea.
A video inspired the former NHH student and entrepreneur to modernise Norwegian food production. He finished his master's degree in 2019.
MODERN FOOD PRODUCTION
‘It was actually completely coincidental. I accidentally stumbled across a video that showed modern food production. It showed something I'd never seen before, something I didn’t know existed,’ says Bratsberg.
Together with his brother, Christopher Bratsberg, he started Alma Hydrokultur, a company that is still developing. The brothers themselves were not particularly versed in the greenhouse industry and modern food production. Through a great deal of research, they learned about the Norwegian districts and the agriculture industry.
‘I was on the lookout for opportunities to start a new business and understood quickly that this was very cool and exciting. I ended up travelling to the Netherlands to a big technology fair to gain an international perspective.’
THEORY IN PRACTICE
Bratsberg attended the Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship (Gründerskolen) at NHH and took an elective course that deals with business models in theory and practice. There was no doubt that the 30-year-old would start something himself after graduating.
The question was: What?
‘The idea to start off with was to find closed shipyards along the coast of Western Norway. We wanted to install vertical cultivation facilities. The idea later turned into the possibility of a massive fully-automated greenhouse with lighting and heating. We abandoned this idea for many reasons. Later in 2020, we switched to strawberry production in heated tunnels, which is in reality a smaller version of a greenhouse,’ explains Bratsberg, who lives in what used to be Akershus county.
Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship
- The Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship (Gründerskolen) program is divided into four parts
- Introductory course
- Startups in practice
- Entrepreneurship Theory in an International Context
- Entrepreneurship and internationalisation
- Offers students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of entrepreneurship by working as interns within a high-tech start-up company overseas.
He underlines that this kind of probing and change of plans underway is something the students learn at the Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship.
Timmermans at NHH
`This is an example of the kind of skills students acquire at NHH. It is important and can be crucial for success as an entrepreneur`, says Bram Timmermans.
He is a professor at the Department of Strategy and Management, NHH. Timmermans is an expert in entrepreneurship and innovation and teaches in the field.
`The professional knowledge can also help to give students a kick to invest in entrepreneurship. It is not necessarily enough to have professional competence to succeed, but it is an essential part of success, in the long run. Entrepreneurs need to have a toolbox, which the NHH education provides them with, and Bratsberg clearly shows how he applies the knowledge.
Also, research shows that entrepreneurs who work systematically and ask the right, critical questions have a greater chance of succeeding and developing their companies`, says Timmermans.
On the look-out for business
Bratsberg´ s idea has always been to modernise Norwegian food production.
`But our approach has changed with time, conversations and knowledge. This is very much in line with what we are taught and thoroughly trained in at the Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship.’
‘During the process of our work in the countryside in Norway, we've been looking for a forward-looking technological farmer. Our approach has been that if this farmer is producing tomatoes, then tomatoes might be the way forward. But it turned out that this farmer in fact specialised in strawberries.’
The enthusiastic 30-year-old explains that modernisation of agriculture is an area with enormous potential, and that very few take advantage of the technological tools already available.
‘There is not only technological potential to be gained in this industry, but also a sustainability aspect. There are ways of doing things more efficiently, but also in a much more sustainable way.’
New company in a pandemic
To take the leap and start something of your own is perhaps even scarier in the middle of a pandemic, but for Bratsberg, COVID-19 has given him more faith in the project.
‘It has actually added a hint of optimism since it puts international trade on the map. The extent to which Norway is self-sufficient has been discussed in the media and elsewhere, which has in turn increased the focus on food produced in Norway. This could actually be good for us,’ explains the enthusiastic entrepreneur, who strongly believes in Norway and Norwegian agriculture.
'What is your best advice to someone who wants to start something of their own?’
‘As I see it, there are many start-ups that struggle with picking up the phone and getting in touch with potential customers or stakeholders. If you have an idea that might be related to agriculture, call the agrarian association or the Norwegian Agricultural Extension Service (NLR) and see what they think. I’d say my best advice is just simply to pick up the phone and call around.’
They reached out to the market and talked to others who they thought might have an opinion about their idea. Bratsberg says that his brother and he learned a lot from their contacts and the information they provided.
‘If you insist on persisting with the original idea you first came up with as a young student at NHH, it might not actually work out in the real world. This is something that has been brought up many times, and something all start-ups are exposed to through the Norwegian School of Entrepreneurship,’ concludes Bratsberg.