Ag Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?

PrecisionAg International LogoThe investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at the recent World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco, CA. Attendance exceeded 500, highest for the event according to conference organizers.

But efforts so far to fully cement the “tech” into “ag” have been frustrating on both sides. The tech sector features digitally infused innovation aplenty – sensors, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, robotics, and more – but openly questions when ag will fully buy in. Agriculture, meanwhile, generally awaits demonstration of tech’s full on-farm value – real-world trialing of new technologies and a rundown of the concrete ways in which they will help farmers do their jobs better. A from-the-podium poll of attendees who thought there was another ag-tech “unicorn” out there on a par with Monsanto’s $930 million acquisition of The Climate Corp. brought a smattering of raised hands.

Kip Tom
Farmer Kip Tom (right): “We have a substantial chance to have an economic renaissance in agriculture.”

And yet, there was widespread agreement that ag tech is about to turn a corner. Sure, agriculture often is slow to change. U.S. farmer and keynote speaker Kip Tom noted that the tractor was introduced to American farming in 1920 but did not surpass use of horses in the mules in the field until 1955.

But continuing breakthroughs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, the increasing affordability of many digital technologies, a generational turnover from Baby Boomers to Generation X and Millennials, and the much-discussed need to feed a growing world population all point to an increase in the use of precision agriculture and digital farming technologies.

Making It in the Real World

Appropriately, Blue River Technologies of Silicon Valley surpassed 13 other tech start-ups to win attendees’ vote for the event’s Disruptive Innovation Award. The company’s See & Spray technology uses image recognition, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to address a real problem for growers in the southern U.S.: herbicide resistance in pigweed. The machine literally sees and sprays only weeds, and leaves crops alone.

In an industry beset by chronic labor shortages and a perpetual drive to “hear” what a crop wants in order to improve its performance, interest was particularly acute for robotization and sensors as well as for the IoT backbone needed to run digital ag. Verizon was in attendance at the event, having identified agriculture as one of five strategic growth areas for its IoT business.

But innovation, it was well noted by event attendees, ranges far beyond nearby Silicon Valley and the rich fruit and vegetable regions within only a few hours’ drive from the Bay Area. Technology tends to go where venture capital money and a density of farmers – if not necessarily the greatest agronomic needs – are located, noted Damien Lepoutre of Geosys. This means England, France, and other well developed areas of the world as well as California.

Latin America too. The region, home to a quarter of the world’s arable land and a net trade in food exports of U.S. $150 billion, currently lags the U.S. and Europe in ag-tech investments. But the region is beginning to catch up thanks to “patient capital,” said Yuri Soares of the Multilateral Investment Fund. With more open, democratic, and pro-market societies, “this is a completely different region today” than it was even a decade ago, he said.

Latin America in just the past several years has seen its first examples of venture capital and tech incubators and accelerators, and now Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia – in that order – have passed meaningful thresholds in scorecards that measure VC interest. For many developing countries hard-pressed to reduce costs, “technology is critical,” said Federico Trucco of Bioceres. In Latin America “you will see some of the highest adoption rates in some of the disruptive technologies,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag

Precision Ag

Bayer to Sell Digital Farming Business – Reuters

Bayer plans to sell its digital farming business to BASF as part of changes to concessions it has offered to win over antitrust regulators for its proposed takeover of Monsanto.

Americas

Ag Software Firm Agrian Expands to Brazil

Since beginning in 2004 as a cloud-based record keeping system, Agrian has quickly expanded its digital capabilities to include a platform approach to help agronomists, growers, retailers, and food processors work collaboratively within one system.

Americas

Rise of Robotics: Q&A with Naïo Technologies CEO

One to watch in the growing agribotics niche is Naïo Technologies out of Toulouse, France.

Americas

In Granular’s Deal with Planet, Satellite Images Deliver Peace of Mind

Granular’s Sid Gorham discusses his company’s focus on making software easy to use and the ever-growing need to be on top of your entire farm from your phone.

Johan-Vos-Veris-Product-Specialist-at-Agrometius
Precision Ag

Precision Agriculture: Success with Sensors

The close relationship between manufacturers and distributors of crop protection products allows them to benefit from the other’s expertise, which

Americas

Understory Partners with Monsanto in Argentina

Disruptive edge computing weather network deployed in key agriculture regions in Argentina.

Americas

Raven Industries Expands into Brazil

Raven Industries, a global leader in precision agriculture technologies, announced its expansion into Brazil with the opening of a regional headquarters in Paulínia, São Paulo.

Americas

The Climate Corp., Deveron Partner to Deliver On-Demand Aerial Imagery Data

Based in Canada, Deveron is a leading full-service enterprise drone data company with a growing fleet of drones.

Europe

Bayer to Market Digital Farming Under “Xarvio” Brand

The company will launch the brand at this year’s Agritechnica.

Americas

Climate Corporation Expands Platform into Western Canada

More Canadian farmers will be able to harness their data in one connected platform to identify and more efficiently manage variability in their fields, tailoring crop inputs to optimize yield and maximize their return on every acre.

Americas

Precision Agriculture to Improve Nutrient Use Efficiency in Brazil

The IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture was held in early October in Goiânia, Goiás, in central western Brazil.

Americas

The Climate Corporation in Data Connectivity Agreement with AGCO

The agreement will provide farmers three ways to connect to the Climate FieldView platform.

NPK

West Central Distribution Collaborates with The Climate Corporation

Collaboration aims to educate agriculture retailers and farmers on how to maximize phosphorus efficiency methods within farming operations to increase profitability.

Agrichemicals

How AgroStar Is Leading the Way to Simplify India’s Distribution

The start-up and innovative disruptor talks to AgriBusiness Global about how its farmer-facing app is changing distribution in India.

Asia

Ag Software Firm Agrian Expands to Australia

In line with a familiar growth trajectory, Agrian Inc. is moving into Australia with a physical support and sales presence to meet new market opportunities.

Americas

Technology Is Changing Ag Suppliers and Companies

John Deere’s recent acquisition of Blue River Technology (BRT) isn’t just meaningful for farmers. It suggests that the very systems that agriculture uses to deliver crop protection products are undergoing another convulsive change

Asia

Can Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Accelerate Farm Mechanization in Asia Pacific?

Aerial agricultural tools in China affects less than 2% of farm area, highlighting the huge potential for the technology.

Americas

Monsanto Announces New Climate FieldView Features, Enhancements

2018 product offering to provide more ways for farmers to manage crop inputs by field zone.

Precision Ag

Syngenta Partners with Premier Crop Systems

Syngenta and Premier Crop Systems, LLC, announce a commercial partnership to bring growers customized, variable-cost-per-bushel analysis maps – the first of this kind.

Latest News

Europe

Spain, Italy: Tracking the EU Powers in Crop Protection

Three months into 2018, many of results of the Kleffmann end-user panels for 2017 are finalized. They confirm our view

Americas

U.S. Farm Bill Draft Defines Plant Biostimulants for First Time

Definition is a critical step in the legislative process to support the development of new sustainable technologies for agriculture and U.S. farmers.

Markets

Bayer Gains Russian Approval for Monsanto Deal

Bayer AG said Friday that Russian antitrust authorities have approved its proposed $57 billion acquisition of Monsanto Co. on the

Asia

Indian IoT Platform for Pre and Post Harvest Raises Seed Round

Indian startup AgNext has raised an undisclosed seed round led by India-focused Agtech VC Omnivore Partners along with Singaporean angel

Industry News

Verdesian Launches Renewed Focus on Grower Nutrient Use Efficiency

Verdesian Life Sciences has announced a reformulation of its mission, positioning statement and approach in order to create a more