It’s estimated that by 2050, the global population will have reached 9 billion. That leaves plenty of mouths to feed, and many processes to adapt to the huge volume of food that will have to be produced daily. This past century, the automatization of the food industry has widely shifted the structure of how humans grow, produce, and distribute food. Mass-production of food has created a great number of challenges. And the issue of climate change makes things infinitely more complicated. We are going to have to come up with innovative and efficient solutions if we want to have a fighting chance of overcoming the challenges ahead. In other words, how can we feed the world sustainably? The new field of Agritech holds the answers to that question. Agritech, born of the fusion between two sectors, uses technology to improve the outcome of agriculture. In the near future, it could help food grow quicker, catering to the increasing demand for it. So how is Agritech revolutionizing the way we grow and produce food?
Challenges seen as opportunities
AgTech estimates that Agritech is a $7.8 trillion industry, rapidly going mainstream as new agricultural technologies are developed every day. For every challenge, Agritech has seen an opportunity to optimize the use of soil, water, time, and energy. A few examples are:
Urban farming – producing food in a heavily populated town that wouldn’t usually have the capacity to grow food. The urbanization of many territories has diminished the available space for growing crops and produce – with urban farming, urban space is being used to grow food with the help of many different technologies.
Vertical farming – using vertical space to grow instead of horizontal ground space
New growing methods – aeroponics, desert agriculture, and seawater farming, help to expand opportunities to produce food beyond the traditional farm.
Furthermore, Agritech is taking deep issues concerning food and agriculture, and turning them into opportunities to innovate. 815 million people on the planet are suffering from hunger, so food production is going to have to increase by 70% to feed the growing world.
Agritech utilizes new technologies to help develop new techniques for agriculture. If all 570 million farms on the planet are able to benefit from the technologies Agritech has developed, agriculture could have a completely different face by 2050.
Five major fields of innovation
There are five major fields within which Agritech is harnessing opportunities for growth via agricultural innovation:
1- Value chains, with direct-to-consumer delivery, meal kits, food e-commerce, to reduce supply chain inefficiency and change the way we eat.
2- Crop efficiency technology, with drones, robots, big data, and sharing platforms to create soil, irrigation, and crop technologies, increasing yield.
3- Bio-chemicals and bio-energy, to try and reduce ecological footprint by producing biologically produced agrochemicals and biomaterials, as well as developing the production of bioenergy.
4- Food technology/artificial meat, by developing “sustainable protein” that uses far fewer resources per unit.
5- Contained and vertical farming.
Initiating the fourth agricultural revolution and Israeli participation in it
The fourth agricultural revolution is said to be on its way and Israel is an important participant in this process. Agritech has been playing its part by introducing smart farming, which is a holistic approach to farming by using smart tech as a tool. This technology comes in the form of sensors that help in the early detection of infestations, as well as the use of software to collect data in relation to weather and soil parameters that helps farmers to react accordingly.
Deep learning and monitoring
One specific Israeli startup has developed deep learning technology that can actually analyze and monitor a crop’s growth. In fact, it’s so detailed that it can detect potential issues such as weeds, insects, and disease. With this kind of detail and information, farmers can respond quickly to potential threats and take steps to prevent further damage.
Optimization through artificial intelligence
Precision agriculture has the potential to increase production quantity and quality. It can make the best use of resources and minimize the environmental impact, creating far more food security throughout the world as a result. In one case, an Israeli startup has developed a digital farming technology that allows farmers to optimize production.
This is done through a combination of IoT devices, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital platforms. The IoT devices collect thousands of data points that are then processed by AI and used to create real-time actionable steps to cultivate an optimal crop.
Robots and AI have long been seen as the future of factories and manufacturing. But one startup has brought the technology to the farming industry. The Israeli startup developed a drone that acts as a shepherd or a herding dog, helping herds of cattle cross roads, and guiding them to safe places without human input.
The agricultural revolution isn’t only happening out on the fields though. With 50% of the world living in urban areas, there is a great need for being able to utilize urban space in order to produce food.
Agritech is offering multiple innovative fields simultaneously, so while farmers are able to produce more food on their land, Agritech is also shifting the way we produce food in cities. Contained farming and vertical farming are allowing produce to grow in urban areas using hi-tech equipment such as LED lighting and aqua/hydroponics. The production can be further enhanced with the use of farming software that can help optimize growth by controlling the lighting and other factors.
The future depends on Agritech
While the development of Agritech represents a massive achievement for mankind, it was primarily born out of necessity. As the world grows at an increasingly faster rate, the demand for more food increases exponentially. At the same time, societal pressure for organic and non genetically modified food increases the challenge further.
Fortunately, the ingenuity in these new technologies looks to solve the many problems agriculture currently faces. As these solutions continue to develop and become widespread, the possibility of eradicating entire diseases and pests could become a reality. This, in turn, could significantly benefit agriculture and the human race as a whole.
So while the challenges of sustainability can be daunting, the Agritech industry continues to meet them head-on. Paving a brighter future for all.