Agriculture is a sector upon which the entire world relies, and unfortunately it’s one that is under constant threat from environmental troubles as well as industrial issues. Looking to overcome these factors are AgriTech firms who leverage cutting edge technologies and novel solutions to protect and adapt the sector for the 21st century and beyond.
A Global Essential.
So far, computer technology has managed to provide the agriculture sector with a healthy boost of efficiency and security, which has so far has allowed the sector to scale quite nicely in line with global demand to some degree. As you can imagine, the introduction of computers into agriculture allowed for a much deeper look into how the ecosystem is functioning overall.
With satellite imagery, advances in data collection methods and analytics, researchers, scientists, farmers, and industry leaders were able to tackle specific areas to greater effect. Upgrades to supply chains, creating fair working conditions and contracts for farmers, applying precision, monitor livestock health, anticipate poor environmental conditions, and even use geoinformatics to monitor entire crop fields.
AgriTech is not new, it’s probably as old as the first cart and wheel used to trudge off farm produce, but the new era of AgriTech is extremely broad, with some exciting new technologies being implemented slowly to great success. The fourth industrial revolution is said to be carried by blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, 3D printing, cybernetic systems, quantum computers and other absolute game-changers, all of which AgriTech appears to be utilizing in one way or another.
AgriTech seems to be leveraging all of these, and recent funding into AgriTech startups and firms speaks volumes; the world understands that these companies have tangible value. Startups in this field are looking to improve, upgrade, and secure an industry we all so deeply rely upon.
In the Field.
One example of AgriTech in action today is AgriLedger, a UK-based social enterprise that is working to support farmers trace the origins of their food produce, provide greater access to finances, and so on. Using blockchain technology, AgriLedger has created a means for farmers to gain deeper access to market information to plan higher-yielding harvests, trace produce, and much more.
IoT technologies are a fascinating prospect in agriculture; sensors and devices that communicate between eachother constantly. IoT sensors collect insane amounts of data, cattle conditions, crop growth progress, and even the quality of the soil. With this power, farmers can press on with confidence and efficiently monitor their entire farm with greater ease and to greater yield.
Most recently, the Australian state of Victoria announced that it was to begin trialling IoT on farms in the area. The trial, dubbed the “On-Farm IoT Trial”, will see thousands of sensors to distributed across farms to monitor a vast array of data points. Also participating in the trial are network providers NNNCo, and Agriculture Victoria; according to reports, the two will be establishing the On-Farm IoT Trial on 600 farms.
In a report from FutureFarms, NNNCo CEO Robert Zagarella detailed just what exactly these sensors will be used for, stating:
“Farmers now have a broad choice of devices and applications from the growing global IoT ecosystem, including irrigation management and control, and real-time monitoring of soil health, rainfall, cattle movement, farm assets, worker safety, and water tank levels so that they can proactively respond to the needs of the farm”,
In other areas of AgriTech, world-leading companies such as Microsoft are stepping into the AgriTech industry with AI technology and a humanitarian heart. In Kenya, Microsoft is working with the nations Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives (MALFC) in a bid to further Microsoft’s vision of digitizing the agriculture sector, making it more trustworthy, profitable, fair, and all the while making it far more sustainable.
Kenya’s ambitions are much the same. In reports, the Principal Secretary of the MALFC, Prof. Hamadi Boga, explained that tapping Microsoft technologies will play a critical role in achieving several of the nation’s goals for their 2030 vision. Boga notes that the nation is looking to increase the daily average income of farmers by 34%, reduce food costs as a “percentage of income” by 47%, cut the number of “food-insecure Kenyans” by 50%, as well as fostering an ambitious 1,000 agriculture-focused startups and enterprises, which should create around 600,000 new jobs.
Transformative Tech Gains Institutional Interest.
Fortunately for agriculture, this new wave of AgriTech is no passing fad, it’s here to stay, develop and grow for as long as the technology exists, and considering that the world is far from perfecting these technologies, the sector is exploding with investment.
Conversely, it’s fortunate for AgriTech companies that agriculture isn’t going anywhere, as well as the amazing fact that many of these companies are looking to protect agriculture both domestically and globally. Reports similar to those mentioned earlier are beginning to appear more frequently, and in turn, investors are flocking to AgriTech.
Notably, an Indonesian AgriTech company named TaniHub gained $17 million in series A+ round of funding. Since its inception in 2016, the company has established a network of 30,000 farmers, connecting them with 115,000 retail consumers as well as an additional 5,000 business customers, a gigantic ecosystem of B2B and B2C trading.
According to independent studies, it’s expected that the AgriTech market will begin to grow year on year, with some anticipating the industry to be worth above $20 billion by 2022, which may be an understatement considering all burgeoning value of the other emerging-tech sectors on which AgriTech relies.
With the influx of money and competition into the AgriTech space, the potential for growth and innovation has never been greater. Undeniably, the development of AgriTech will play a vital role in securing the future of the entire agriculture industry; though nascent, the technologies on which AgriTech products will be built are gaining traction in an ever-digitizing world with many serious challenges to overcome.