Ag Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?

Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
For the professionals and organizations providing agronomic and technology advice to farmers, the battle to create a sustainable service business has never been more challenging.

The 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.

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

Events Stories
ISPA-Yoshua-Bengio
EventsHighlights from the 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture
July 9, 2018
The 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture (ICPA) presented by the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) was held in Montreal, Read More
Topcon X30 Console in cab
EventsAssociation Seeks Definitive Definition of “Precision Agriculture” — What’s Your Vote?
July 2, 2018
More than two-dozen definitions of precision agriculture have been identified through the years — but which is the best and Read More
Ag Drone
EventsAgTech Conference of the South Dedicated to Innovation, Entrepreneurship in Agriculture
June 12, 2018
Join current and emerging agtech business leaders and investors at the AgTech Conference of the South, a premiere conference dedicated Read More
PrecisionAg Professional Accelerator
EventsWhat’s Stopping You From Maximizing Your Precision Program?
May 16, 2018
Day 2 of the PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator will challenge you to evaluate and improve your approach to customer value and Read More
Trending Articles
ISPA-Yoshua-Bengio
EventsHighlights from the 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture
July 9, 2018
The 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture (ICPA) presented by the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) was held in Montreal, Read More
Topcon X30 Console in cab
EventsAssociation Seeks Definitive Definition of “Precision Agriculture” — What’s Your Vote?
July 2, 2018
More than two-dozen definitions of precision agriculture have been identified through the years — but which is the best and Read More
AmericasRaven Name to Grace New South Dakota State University Facility
June 27, 2018
According to a press release issued by the company, Raven Industries was recognized today in the naming of South Dakota Read More
dropcopter
DronesNew York Apple Orchard Claims World First in Pollination by Drone
June 18, 2018
Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard in LaFayette, NY, is the first orchard in the world to use drones to pollinate Read More
JDandPessl
Sensors/IoTJohn Deere, Pessl Instruments Team Up to Create Opportunities
June 18, 2018
John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help Read More
Matt-Waits-featured
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key to Transforming Global Agriculture
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
Latest News
Tools & Smart EquipmentCanadian Planter Manufacturer Purchases Harvest Interna…
July 19, 2018
Seeding and planting technology innovator Clean Seed has signed an agreement to strategically acquire U.S. planting equipment manufacturer Harvest International, Read More
Data ManagementInfoAg News: Farmobile Launches DataEngine, Streamlines…
July 17, 2018
Busy times these days out in Overland Park Leawood, KS, for ag data startup Farmobile, as they continue to – Read More
Agrible
Grower Services & SolutionsNutrien Drops $63 Million to Acquire Agrible
July 16, 2018
Nutrien announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Agrible for total consideration of $63 million, Read More
Industry NewsFarmobile Acquires Prime Meridian, Taps Cubbage as New …
July 13, 2018
Farmobile today announced an agreement to acquire the assets of Prime Meridian, a precision agriculture data management company based in Read More
group-photo
DronesPrecision Agriculture Takes Flight at North Carolina St…
July 13, 2018
Take a walk into the Suggs Laboratory for Precision Agriculture and Machine Systems and it’s hard not to be impressed, Read More
Skeketee-IC-Weeder
DronesAutomated Weeders Have Arrived in Vegetable Fields
July 12, 2018
The vegetable production areas of the Central Coast of California have lifted vegetable cultivation to a high art, writes Richard Read More
AgJunction, InfoAg 2014, Autosteer, GPS
Industry NewsAgJunction Settles with Raven in Patent Infringement Su…
July 12, 2018
AgJunction Inc., a leader in advanced guidance and autosteering, has settled a patent infringement lawsuit it filed against Raven Industries, Read More
Retailer-Grower-tablet
Business ManagementTaking Measure of the Precision Agriculture Program: 6 …
July 12, 2018
In the overall agriculture market, the rhetoric surrounding emerging technology over the past half-decade has been nothing short of breathless. Read More
raven-slingshot-job-generator-job-sync-1
Industry NewsNew Raven Slingshot Advancements Will Help Save Time, R…
July 11, 2018
Raven Industries, Inc. has announced several new services available on the Slingshot and Viper 4 platforms: Job Generator and Job Read More
Onsite-logo
Industry NewsAgIntegrated Acquires Exclusive Licence to Satshot’s Im…
July 11, 2018
AgIntegrated, Inc. (AGI), a leader in precision ag data integration and software development, and Satshot, a leader and pioneer in Read More
Australian Harvest
Australia/New ZealandAustralian Agritech Plants Blockchain for Efficiency
July 11, 2018
“Agritech” at one time would have meant new equipment such as tractors and combine harvesters, but today it refers to Read More
Tomato-crop-India
AsiaIndia: Using Artificial Intelligence for the Good of Fa…
July 11, 2018
After graduating from IIT-Madras, the first thing that Vivek Rajkumar did was to buy four acres near Thiruvananthapuram and start Read More
BrightFarms
Industry NewsForbes List of Innovative Ag-Tech Companies Includes Gr…
July 9, 2018
Forbes magazine recently posted a list of the 25 most innovative ag-tech startups in 2018, which includes a few companies Read More
AmericasNutrien Ag Solutions Brand, New Digital Platform Launch…
July 9, 2018
Nutrien (formerly Crop Production Services) has officially rebranded its retail business to Nutrien Ag Solutions, aligning the company’s retail operations Read More
ISPA-Yoshua-Bengio
EventsHighlights from the 14th International Conference on Pr…
July 9, 2018
The 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture (ICPA) presented by the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) was held in Montreal, Read More
TerrAvion
Industry NewsTerrAvion Integrates Aerial Imagery with John Deere Ope…
July 6, 2018
TerrAvion, Inc., a large volume provider of aerial imagery to agriculture, has announced an integration to allow TerrAvion’s aerial imagery Read More
Farmer-Tablet
Data ManagementAgriculture’s Next Breakthrough: New Technologies…
July 3, 2018
We live in an exciting time in agriculture. Not only is technology advancing rapidly, but the understanding and comprehension of Read More
Nebraska-Storm
Precision IrrigationNotes from the Field: A Look at Irrigation Management P…
July 2, 2018
One of the things I love most about my work is making periodic treks into the field – more often Read More