In 2015, tech came to agriculture in a big way, reports Barbara Grady, GreenBiz.
Responding to pressing needs to farm in drought conditions in many parts of the world and to figure out how to feed 2.3 billion more people in a few decades, tech entrepreneurs and farmers alike produced a flurry of ag tech tools.
As one gauge of this growth, AgFunder reports that investment in ag tech soared to an estimated $4bn this year, nearly doubling in one year from $2.36bn in ag tech investment in 2014.
In addition, big food companies poured R&D money into bringing precision farming to their agricultural supply chains, realizing that plentiful water and arable land won’t last forever in a climate-changing world.
Kellogg and other big food companies invested in putting precision agriculture to use in their agricultural supply chains to boost productivity and partly to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices espoused by the U.N. — sustainability practices which result in using less water and producing fewer greenhouse gases in farming. Syngenta developed an intelligent water irrigation platform so farmers could use data to read moisture levels at the field level and time precise water release. And Monsanto paired up with biotech firm Novozymes to develop microbial solutions to plant health.
Urban agriculture pioneers, intent on bringing locally grown produce to cities, developed new paradigms in farming such as vertical agriculture and freight car farming. AeroFarms started nine urban farms using aeroponics or growing vegetables in a mist environment without soil under LED lights, employing data algorithms to figure out exactly the amount of nutrient inputs and mist needed.
Capitalizing on tech interest in agriculture and investor interest in ag tech, incubators and accelerators have started up, promising yet further growth in ag tech, as well as collaborative entities and tech platforms. The Farmer Business Network is one such collaborative platform, started by an ex-Googler and funded by some of the biggest names in venture capital, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DBL Investors and Google Ventures. It offers a platform to all the ag tech companies pursuing data solutions to agriculture problems.