Agtech continues to respond to climate change threat
Agtech and foodtech innovations are of huge importance if the world is to successfully counter the effects of climate change. The evidence suggests that technology experts are busy meeting the challenge but there are fears that not enough is being done within the limited timeframe humanity has to respond. The potential impact of a heating climate on agriculture and by extension food resources is stark.
Signs of the urgency around technological solutions emerge almost daily. The World Food Forum last week announced the launch of an international competition to support and showcase entrepreneurs harnessing technology to drive the sustainable transformation of agri-food systems, with the goal of ending world hunger.
Plentiful investment aimed at technological solutions
Meanwhile, investment pours in continually. In each of the last two years, venture capitalists invested $4 billion in startups in the agtech space, according to Crunchbase data.
The innovations involved include digital, cloud and intelligent technologies which can optimise farming, capture carbon, and facilitate regenerative agriculture.
A key overriding goal is to shift the entire agricultural supply chain to a circular business model by connecting linear, fragmented supply chains into unified, collaborative, and intelligent business networks.
A recent example is New Zealand-based Zespri International, the world’s largest grower-owned marketer of kiwifruit, who are harnessing their tech efforts into production and distribution. They are using the cloud to plan their global supply chain more accurately and make decisions on shipments and market allocations and could reduce the loading time of kiwi pallets onto the ships at ports from 20 minutes to 30 seconds to get the fresh produce faster to destinations worldwide.
The New Zealanders are, in partnership with German software giant SAP, set to transform their entire global supply chain by standardising and automating processes across the organisation.
Climate necessity the mother of invention
Meanwhile other players in the agtech space, including Syngenta and Indigo Ag have developed different types of seed technologies that make crops more resilient. The crops involved which include wheat, corn, and soy, can grow in tougher conditions with less water, meaning less need for irrigation.
Start-ups in agtech are also starting to get noticed. US-based Farmers Business Network raised $250 million funding earlier this month for its ecommerce tech, which helps farmers optimise their financial performances by finding demand for supply. Pivot Bio saw $100 million funding invested in April, to scale its microbial nitrogen technology, a product that increases crop yields. $91.3 million was invested recently in Geltor, a company making proteins, such as collagen and elastin, but without animals – for use in beauty, and food and beverage products.
Finland’s iFarm, founded in 2017, has more than 50 ongoing projects with clients in Europe and the Middle East for 2020 and is a serial subject for investment. It continues to develop its iFarm Growtune technology platform in growing strawberries, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, radishes and other crops.
Cornell University published a study that found that farming productivity has fallen 21 percent since the 1960s due to climate change.
In a relatively short space of time that is a significant volume. It is to be hoped that agtech can help arrest and reverse the trend.
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