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Food and sustainability

Internet of Things, clouds and trends in agriculture

From automation to food safety, from adaptive irrigation to supply-chain management systems, and from big-data aggregators to food recovery, the main technological impacts in agriculture hit the top of the chain, with in-field systems, post-harvest monitoring and efficiency boosters.


Fifth Avenue, New York, is the location where Forbes and The Mixing Bowl organized a conference aiming to connect farmers with innovative technologies. The Mixing Bowl is an organization that wants to support the value created when agriculture meets technology.

Many organizations were represented among the speakers: Brian Halweil from Edible Manhattan (a magazine from the Edible network that covers food stories); Scott Norton, Co-Founder of the food company Sir Kensington; Einav Gefen, Corporate Executive Chef of Unilever Foodservice and Even Turow, well-know writer for her famous “A Taste of Generation Yum”.

The growing role of technology


Seana Day, partner at the Mixing Bowl, led the first speech, setting the base for the whole event. She has over twelve years of investment, Mergers & Acquisition advisory and technology experience and she was part of the development of AgriTech Market Map while working at AgTech Insight.

The map explores the main trends which are shaping the new agricultural space. From automation to food safety, from adaptive irrigation to supply-chain management systems, and from big-data aggregators to food recovery, we see that in agriculture main technological impacts hit the top of the chain, with in-field systems, post-harvest monitoring and efficiency boosters. 


The main takeaway of her speech is that technology does have a growing role in agriculture and with Internet of Things (IoT), making a stronger appearance in the AgTech lexicon, we can see different in-field technologies which are shaping innovation spaces.

Some examples? Adaptive irrigation and IoT monitoring platforms, a space with over 40 different platforms and ever more entrants; aerial imaging solutions, divided by sensors, systems, analytics and services, that are capturing aerial images of agricultural land via satellite, drone or airplane, while others are analyzing those images to provide decision-support to growers and agriculture value-chain participants; decision support tools, particularly visible in the livestock category and the expanding list of crop/farm management software players and also cloud-based and software technologies, which enable to measure and share data through platforms.


Technology impacts


The challenge is now to apply these technologies to daily farming and to see what are their impact.

Agriculture contributes 24% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other industry, and could increase by another 30% by 2050 without greater efforts to reduce them. Digital precision agriculture and big data technologies can increase the efficiency of inputs, including chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and water, and reduce their use. Precision machinery and robotics enable farmers to increase efficiency and reduce wastage or overapplication. Biological input technologies aim to replace or severely reduce the amount of synthetic fertilizer or pesticide, and alternative protein technologies aim to replace or reduce the world’s reliance on animal agriculture. 

Some 663 million people worldwide lack access to water, of whom 159 million have to depend on surface water. Globally, at least 1.8 billion people use a contaminated drinking-water source resulting in approximately 502,000 diarrhoeal deaths. Globally, agriculture uses 70% of the freshwater. Water management technologies can help farmers to monitor and measure their water usage. Furthermore, irrigation technologies can help farmers to maximize the potential by optimizing the time and amount that’s applied to crops using a variety of data inputs.

Nearly a third of all food produced around the globe is wasted. This enormous quantity of food (nearly 1.3 billion tonnes per year according to WWF estimates) is four times that needed to feed the 800 million people currently living in a state of malnutrition. Post-harvest technologies can help to reduce food waste by providing food companies with more information about the state of their food throughout the food chain and by detecting pathogens early enough to save produce. Waste repurposing technologies make the most out of wasted food by converting it into biogas, fertilizer and more.

The main challenge highlighted during the conference is the lack of “a common system where we can communicate and move data”. We do have data and advanced technology, but we still do not have fluid and ubiquitous connectivity among them. The challenge now is to connect “pipes” with “platforms”, crowdsourcing and aggregating value, exponentially increasing it.

Chiara Cecchini, BCFN Alumni

The Mixing Bowl photographs (two pictures of the conference) are copyrighted with all rights reserved.  Please do not download or use them without photo credit and link backs and never for any commercial use without contacting The Mixing Bowl (inquiries@mixingbowlhub.com) in advance for purchase or licensing rights. 


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