[High Tech Peak Awards] Eline van den Haak


Door Renske Mehra

Recently the e52 High Tech Piek Awards were presented to nine people who made a significant contribution in the high tech arena (or from whom we expect great things in 2016).

The award titles bespeak a holiday theme, with one “Piek” award (a typically Dutch Christmas tree-topper with a pointed shape), four “Star” awards, and four “Knallers” (firecrackers, or as we like to call them: Blasts).

We’ve been talking to each of the award winners, and featuring one every day. 

Today Eline van den Haak What Awarded one of the Blasts of 2016 Why A talented young student who invented the ‘Soil Optimizer’. The jury is convinced she will achieve many more things in the coming years, hopefully in Eindhoven.

Eline in (slightly more than) 52 words

Eline (19) is an Industrial Engineering student from Rosmalen. Last spring she participated in the TU/e Contest, a competition in which students compete against each other with innovative ideas, projects and solutions. To her own surprise, Van den Haak won the contest out of approximately 200 entries. “I was a freshman when I submitted the idea, while other students were already working on their master’s degree. I really didn’t expect to win.”

Detailed soil analysis

Eline invented the Soil Optimizer. A machine that runs autonomously over a field and analyses that field by taking soil samples. The robot looks at the water saturation, the pH levels, the presence of eight types of nutrients and to what extent the soil is able to retain these nutrients. These data are saved and uploaded to a platform where they are analyzed and linked with other data, such as information about weather conditions and the crops. “All these data together should provide the farmer a complete picture of his plot. Secondly we would like to use these data to be able to automatically fertilize the ground.”

Van den Haak talks about ‘we’ because she has developed the idea together with her twin sister Fréderique who is studying biology at Utrecht University.

Yellow spots in the lawn

It was the garden of her parental home which inspired her to make the Soil Optimizer. “We have lived in several places abroad, but we always kept our home in the Netherlands. When we arrived there in the summer, the garden was often in terrible shape. We would be busy for weeks trying to get the garden back in shape, but at the end of the summer there were still yellow spots in the lawn or plants in particular places that were not doing well. I wondered why and how it could be improved. ”

After participating in the TU/e Contest Eline van den Haak and her team built a proof-of-concept robot and she is now in the process of filing the patent. “I hope we will have a working prototype this year and a first version within one-and-a-half to two years.”

Text: Jeroen van de Nieuwenhof