When you think about agriculture, it’s possible that the image it evokes is of a traditional sector, unadjusted to technology. The truth is, although many farms still follow that model, the agricultural sector has been going through its own tech revolution over the last few years.
We have witnessed not only the emergence of several innovative AgTech companies but also the exponential growth of investment in this area. The purpose of their products – ranging from crop monitoring and farm management software to soil sensors – is to make agriculture more efficient, smarter and more predictable. With forecasts pointing to a world population of 9.8 billion by 2050 (according to the UN) saving resources and producing more with less is more urgent than ever.
Here are 3 AgTech trends that will shape the sector in 2018.
Using sensors to gather information about crops – water needs, soil temperature, humidity, etc. – is not news, but the investment in this type of technology is on the rise. Estimates suggest that in 2025 the global market value of agricultural sensors will reach 288.3 million dollars – a huge increase from its value in 2016: 99.3 million.
2. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to something that is increasingly common: the network connectivity between devices and objects which allows them to manage and exchange data amongst each other with minimum human intervention. Sensors, articulated with software that centralizes and analyzes the data that the former gathered, are an example of IoT in agriculture.
The Stoock sensor, for instance, will collect information about the crops and the technician will be able to access it on his tablet, smartphone or computer, using the Agroop Cooperation app. This allows the technician to make more informed decisions and increase the productivity of his farm – or the farms that belong to his associates.
3. Artificial Intelligence and robots
The agricultural sector hasn’t been indifferent to the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics. Since 2014, the market has seen the arrival of products like a hyperspectral camera that captures images of crops which are analyzed by an algorithm that will then provide useful information about them (Gamaya); a system that predicts which microbes will be the most beneficial for the plants (Indigo); an apple-picking robot (still in development by Abundant Robotics), among others.
In September of 2017, agricultural giant John Deere acquired Blue Rivers, a company that created “See and Spray”. This AI system uses a camera to identify plants and, if they are invasive plants, it sprays them with pesticide; if they’re crops, it sprays them with fertilizer. It seems that AI in agriculture has come to stay.