2018 has great premises of bringing new advancements in agriculture, due among others to increased investments developed in 2017 when they reached a historical maximum in the first part of the year. Investments in agrifood technology startups summed for the first six months of 2017 $4.4 billion registering a 6% advance and reversing the 2016 drop down trend.
Large fundraisings are targeted towards innovations in the agricultural field like drones, artificial intelligence integrations for agriculture, plant genomics, alternative proteins, sensors, robots, crop modeling and more.
There is lots of noise and a plethora of new companies in agritech area, that pop up claiming to bring improvements and innovations for agriculture growers and producers. Thus, some trends worth paying attention to:
Artificial intelligence is not just since fiction subject anymore; it builds its way more and more to our present life. In agriculture, it appears in the form of farm equipment, tractors, threshers, etc. It’s true there is a long way to be covered before autonomous farm machines will become the norm, but still, the prototypes provoke excitement. One of the most important challenges is how to move the AI tractor across the public roads to the field. 2018 is expected to bring collaborations between authorities and farmers to come up with a feasible solution to allow implementation of this technology. Anyway, AI for agribusiness is just in an embryo phase, what the future might bring may surpass the most audacious imagination.
Sensors is an area attracting more and more new investments. From sensor powered drones to machine learning software that collects, and superior processes information provided by sensors, farmers have learned to take profit on the advantages provided by better sensor tech. Wireless sensors permit an improved control of water irrigations and optimization of fertilizers for plant growth. While drones and satellite images and aerial survey of crops allow prompt interventions in case of plagues or other factors impacting heavily on crop yields.
Biotechnology. Plant genomics is a hot trend and gene editing a promising innovation. Computation biology hastened the advance in genomics and generated more precise methods to improve the crops. Seed major producers have already made the first steps to invest in such methods for the purpose of creating plants with reinforced traits that reduce yield loss or plants with an increased resistance to stressful climate conditions. Plant genomics can be very useful for animal feed, to conceive recipes that provide valid protein supply for animals’ consumption. We will see emphasized efforts targeting biotechnology next year, even if expected results might not emerge right away. These innovations in biotechnology are different from already used genetic modification and will imply special regulations.
Internet of things is an emerging and debated theme of discussion. As an example, using a distributed network of low-cost sensors to monitor the filed may provide accurate insights of the current on spot situation of crops. That may relate to moisture, soil pH, nitrogen level to make properly informed decisions. Some cooperatives have organized themselves to test the idea.
Next year might bring on the scene trends that we consider irrelevant now, or other might gain a superior momentum like data analytics and crop modeling, robots for different farm operations or nanotechnology. We will have a better grasp next year by this time if our view materialized or not.