In order to feed the estimated 9.7 billion people on earth in 2050, agriculture must overcome many pressing challenges: increasingly meat-heavy diets, degradation of fertile land, widespread water shortage, increasingly volatile weather, and climate change. Addressing the question of how to utilize the next generation of technology and jump-start into the Third Agricultural Revolution is crucial for the future of agriculture companies. As investments in AgriTech reached a record high of $10.1 billion in 2017, our Innovation Analysts at StartUs Insights screened more than 950 startups in the industry to identify the most promising AgriTech startups and technologies impacting the industry in the near future.
Also called the 3rd Green Revolution, smart farming represents a holistic approach to agricultural innovation by adopting & combining smart technologies. A combination of sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), automation, and cloud-based Big Data platforms improve every aspect of crop management and transforms agriculture production.
Precision Farming, or Site Specific Crop Management (SSCM), adopts satellite or drone imagery to optimize strategies for best crop efficiency. The concept is based on research of various data and imagery gathered by satellites/drones to optimize farm management. For example, multispectral imagery helps determine the best fit for crops and terrain types and a multi-year simulation can help mitigate risks in this regard.
Robotics & Automation
Advanced robotics, automated machinery & drones are crucial to increasing the efficiency of agricultural production in the future. Automated large machinery can take over many aspects of large-scale farming. A new generation of precision robotic manipulators can locate and identify produce, select and pick it based on its size and degree of ripeness. In addition, automated irrigation systems optimize for both crop growth and water usage.
By adopting controlled-environment agriculture, vertical farming stacks layers of plants vertically to produce food/medicine on vertically inclined surfaces or in alternative structures such as shipping containers, skyscraper, and rooftops. With integrated sensor solutions and automation, it can precisely control environmental variables in the growth environment for optimized usage of space, energy, water, and other input factors.
The recent advancements in BioTech greatly contribute to improving agricultural production. Genetic engineering creates seeds that are more adaptable to less optimal environments and more resilient to climate change. BioTech also aids in identifying better ways to battle against pests.
Big Data & Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Using sensor-recorded weather conditions, changes in soil structure and crop efficiency, Big Data & AI optimize almost every aspect of crop management. Similarly, these two technologies also carry out improvements in business and operational processes based on stored business and operational information, thereby improving the overall performance of agricultural businesses.
Drones & Satellites
Drones and satellites measure and monitor fields, create terrain maps, control the quality of tillage & sowing works, and provide a large amount of phyto-geomorphological data for optimal farming management. For example, hyperspectral cameras mounted on drones show water and fertilizer use, crop yield as well as the emergence of pests, ultimately aiding in addressing these issues early on and ensuring more yield.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Sensor technologies and monitoring solutions integrate into the existing farming process (mechanization) to generate precision data for daily decision-making of farmers and agricultural businesses. This real-time data provides the basis for automation systems to trigger action and tracks the effectiveness of automation systems for future improvement.
Disruptive Startups In The Agricultural Industry Include:
- Israeli startup CropX develops cloud-based software solutions integrated with wireless sensors, which boost crop yield while saving water and energy. CropX offers an integrated hardware and software system for measuring soil moisture, temperature, and electrical conductivity and sending this data to the cloud where it can be accessed from any mobile or fixed device.
- Portugal-based Agroop focuses on farm cloud management services and risk analysis solutions. In addition, its multi-sensor Stoock provides a real-time monitor of temperature, weather, and moisture as well as the hydric balance of crops. Based on this, users can manage and analyze crops’ water needs, prevent risks such as plagues or diseases by creating alerts, centralize crops’ quality parameters, among other possibilities.
- Spanish startup Agrobot develops a system that manages a set of robotic manipulators able to locate and identify strawberries, selecting and picking them based on their size and degree of ripeness. The system analyzes fruits one by one, and it is responsible for ordering cutting movements that guarantee accuracy, smoothness, and sensitivity in the strawberry treatment.
- German startup NeoFarms introduces fully automated aeroponics, which can grow a vertical farm about the size of a household fridge all by itself.
- Irish BioTech MicroGen focuses on plant growth promotion, oil field sludge/crude oil impacted soil remediation, brownfield remediation, and dredging material remediation. The startup applies “functional microbiomes” and “high throughput screening” platform technologies to develop microbial products for remediating soil pollutants, improving soil fertility and increasing agricultural yield under stress conditions.
- Spanish startup Bynse combines multifunctional agriculture sensors with a Big Data cloud solution to provide comprehensive crop management information. In addition to data from the sensors, it pulls additional meteorological and research data from various sources to help farmers make better business decisions.
- Swiss startup Gamaya combines drones and artificial intelligence to help farmers grow their crops more efficiently and more cost-effectively. Hyperspectral cameras mounted on drones show changes like water and fertilizer use, crop yield, and the emergence of pests. An AI software analyzes these images, alerting farmers to changes and offering predictions.
- Funded with 6.8€ million so far, AgriTech startup Semios delivers precision data and intelligence to growers for daily decision-making that increases crop value. The startup allows to set-up a robust network that enables growers to place devices anywhere in their field, including pheromone dispensers, automated traps, soil moisture meters or leaf-wetness devices.
In order to overcome the critical challenges the agricultural industry faces and to ensure food security for an increasing population, companies and farmers as well as their plants need to be more innovative and resilient. As the AgriTech Innovation Map is compiled of data based on actual startup activity, it leaves no doubt that technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D Printing, and sensors will have an immense impact on the future of agriculture. Companies that move fast and integrate these smart solutions early on, will be the industry leaders of tomorrow. At StartUs Insights, we utilize our Innovation Scouting approach to support companies in the industry to identify the most innovative solutions and startups relevant to their agenda to successfully integrate them into their existing businesses.