Agriculture is in need of innovation and new technologies as the challenges for farmers keep on growing due to climate change and other obstacles
Farming is as old as mankind and a necessity we simply can not live without. But the industry around growing and harvesting is changing fast right now due to advancements in technology and startups that push for innovation forward and shape the future of food.
From data farming, food waste platforms, genetics, alternative proteins to climate farming - the vertical of Agricultural Technology (short: AgTech) is booming and bears huge promises for even the most severe issues farmers have to deal with nowadays.
Tackling droughts and heavy rain with data
The rising speed of climate change leads to a growing risk of extreme weather conditions such as droughts or heavy rain which causes a huge headache for farmers, science shows. During the last couple of years droughts were recorded of dimensions that haven’t been observed since the French Revolution, a study of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research points out. Especially 2018 saw a historic year with droughts so bad and crop yield was down by 30% in some regions of Germany.
Using data and drones could help to tackle that issue. One example is the technology provided by Karlsruhe-based startup heliopas.ai founded by Ingmar Wolff and Benno Ommerborn. The team developed an app called WaterFox that through analysing data gathered from satellites and weather stations makes recommendations of how much humidity is needed every day for farmers to water their fields more efficiently.
Another technology that is finding resonance: drones to supervise the ackers. Dario Manns, CEO and Co-Founder of drone service Fairfleet is developing a drone mapping service in his firm and he’s sure that in 5 years we will have the first fully automated precision farming farms and that drones are going to tell the harvester “where to harvest and when”, says Dario Manns. Precision farming refers to the farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter- and intra-field variability in crops.
New proteins & cruelty free food
Another problem farmers are facing is the drawback from livestock farming and the criticism of the circumstances under which the animals are held and treated has increased during the last couple of years. Especially cows produce a lot of greenhouse gases and are a significant driver of climate change as well. So people are looking for alternatives. Julia Köhn, CEO & founder of the regional online marketplace PIELERS and president of the German Agrifood Society, a community of German Agtech Startups, is sure that in the future as many proteins as possible will be synthetic or plant-based. “We will industrialise protein production and de-industrialize livestock farming.”
Startup dropnostix, founded in 2015 by Lars Abraham and Dr. Michael Breitenstein, works on a way to improve animal welfare. It offers farmers a monitoring system for cows to help recognize symptoms for illness early on by measuring temperature, motion behaviour and digestive activities with the help of a sensor that is placed in the rumen.
Entrepreneur Torsten Steiner works on a way to get rid of pesticides - in a sustainable way. “There’s the increasing conflict between sustainability and productivity”, the CEO and Co-Founder of Dahlia Robotics, a farming robot technology, points out. The startup aims to optimize crop output by leaving out herbicides and pesticides and instead using their autonomous weed remover robot.
Huge potential for innovation
Not to mention that the whole farming economy is under a huge amount of pressure. The current economic situation demands farmers to produce higher volumes of food on less land while at the same time reducing costs. New technologies such as precision farming, real time-surveillance and predictive analytics developed by startups could help, Julia Köhn of the German Agrifood Society is convinced.
Michaela Kaniber, president of the Bavarian ministry for Food, Agriculture and Forestry, stresses that the innovation potential in that sector is huge and that this progress must be supported.
And this is where founders come in to help out a sector that is affecting all of our lives. Many farmers need support in technological solutions and this is a chance to define the future of food.