When Geoffrey von Maltzahn was first pitching farmers to try out his startup's special seeds, he sometimes told them, half-acknowledging his own hyperbole, that "if we're right, you shouldn't just see results in the field, you should be able to see them from outer space." As the co-founder of a company called Indigo Ag, von Maltzahn was hawking a probiotic that he hoped would increase their crop yields dramatically. "I never thought we'd ever actually test that idea," he says. In the three years since Indigo began selling naturally occurring organisms such as bacteria and fungi, spray-coated onto seeds, the company has grown to become perhaps the most valuable agtech company in the world. Pitchbook, for example, estimates Indigo's value at $3.5 billion.
John Deere has been an agtech innovator for years. BUT, the separation of agribusiness for the highest levels of tech integration, until recently, has prevented John Deere from being seen as a tech company. Rather, this agricultural technology giant has been mistakenly grouped with agribusiness companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge, companies whose profits are heavily influenced by the price of food grains (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.). "Farming is no longer about big, steel machines and farmers' intuition.
Demand for faster action in tackling the climate crisis has put significant pressure on the industry. Facing criticisms for its emissions, carbon footprint, lack of traceability and low productivity, there is little doubt that leaders in the farming sector have much to address. Yet 2019 has also been a year of great ambitions in tackling such challenges, utilising the latest technology and strategy in aiming to meet the industry's 2040 net zero goal, 10 years ahead of the UK-wide goal. As leading agricultural firms and smaller providers alike look to the new year, it is key to discuss how Ag-Tech will help to improve sustainability and feed a growing population. The drive towards greater sustainability in agriculture happens in parallel with a drive towards greater efficiency and productivity.
Despite a growing population, now predicted to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the agriculture industry must rise to meet demand, regardless of environmental challenges like unfavorable weather conditions and climate change. To meet the needs of that growing population, the agriculture industry will have to adopt new technologies to gain a much-needed edge. New agricultural applications in smart farming and precision farming through IoT will enable the industry to increase operational efficiency, lower costs, reduce waste, and improve the quality of their yield. So, what is smart farming? Smart farming is a capital-intensive and hi-tech system of growing food cleanly and sustainable for the masses.
"Agriculture 4.0 is the latest evolution of the agricultural life cycle stimulated by digital disruption at all stages of the food supply chain," Cassandra Keener, Investment Director Chicago at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), explains to FoodIngredientsFirst. "Just as Germany is driving economic growth through Industry 4.0, Australia can lead the world in Agriculture 4.0 for the benefit of the Australian economy," she notes. Keener was speaking as Australia for Agriculture 4.0, a new initiative by Austrade, the nation's trade and investment promotion agency, was launched. The project builds on the country's impressive record in agricultural innovation to facilitate foreign investment, exports and collaboration in both agtech and foodtech. The initiative aims to establish Australia as a global hub for agricultural and food innovation. It will showcase Australia's agtech and foodtech capability, and highlight its unique technological advances, research excellence, strong record of innovation expertise, as well as the nation's strong government support and established export channels.