Best of | AgriTech
Are you wondering what’s to come in the future of agriculture and who will lead the agritech revolution? Some startups are already working on solving the sector’s biggest challenges.
What are those challenges? To begin with, there are extreme weather conditions, that are increasingly affecting working on farms and fields. Secondly, we should also take the issue of generational shift into consideration. You could easily say that this is a sector getting older and older, and you are probably right. But truth is, there are several agile, young developers who are lining up to meet the challenges, providing an excellent foundation for the future of agriculture.
The third challenge that we have to consider is the technological shift. New, previously unimaginable technologies are arriving at the sector, some of them evoking the space age. Just think about all the data taken from space systems to downstream applications helping effective production on the fields.
To find the solution to these challenges, not to mention at the same time, in parallel with each other and to be successful in tackling these obstacles, innovation is the only solution. Ecosystem players have to pay attention to the development of innovation ability in the agricultural sector too.
To this day, agricultural innovation is mainly defined only by research and development, although it is an important recognition that startups can also be involved in this work. Numerous service innovations can help digitize agriculture globally. Of course, this is not just the interest of farmers. After all, the whole process puts high-quality food on the table of all of us. And let’s not forget about the growing – what growing! doubling! – food demand that we will have to deal with by 2050 according to scientific prognosis.
Protecting the environment and being sustainable is also an important aspect when we think about the future of agriculture. With the help of new solutions and ideas, the usage of pesticides in crop production and antibiotics in animal husbandry can be reduced for example. These are not only profitable methods but also have a beneficial effect on the health of our planet.
Let’s take a look at some of the success stories of agritech. First of all, we brought you two examples from the X-Europe’s agritech cohort.
Hungarian team, Agroninja began to deal with the lack of data in agriculture recently. “We have started to deal with this problem in the cattle industry, but the same is true for the entire spectrum of animal husbandry” says Tamás. „Weighing a living animal is not simple. However, this is essential information for the herd, as it will be one of the key factors to good quality meat. In addition, farmers can save costs when being conscious about it.”
Their solution is a platform that can estimate the weight of animals with a 95% confidence in 20 seconds based on uploaded photos, using a laser rangefinder connected to a cell phone taking the picture. “We created a cattle hub that handles measured data, such as weight, in an online cloud. This way, the obesity curve and development can be monitored and properly documented.” X-Europe provided them market analysis, sales and marketing ideas, and knowledge, as well as getting to know the investor's perspective on several topics.
„It was great to meet other founders in agritech as it is such a niche space and I've not had a chance before to make acquaintances in this field before” – says Ru Wikmann, Co-Founder and CEO at BeeSage. The startup helps beekeepers take care of their colonies by eliminating risks and enabling informed decisions using their beehive monitoring system. They are based in Riga, Latvia and they were founded in 2020. Smart beehive scales is the first product they launched. All the captured data is conveniently displayed within one dashboard in their web app.
With them, farmers can take advantage of peak blooming periods during the active season, evaluate the strength of a colony and make sure they are ready for major nectar flow and receive a daily email report about beehive weight changes and analyse historical data.
„Frankly, when it comes to business and product, for now, we'll have to keep the credit to ourselves and our partners within the beekeeping community of Latvia. No one can write the software for us, design and solder PCB, manufacture the hardware, set up a webshop, or go and do the groundwork with beekeepers to test and start selling our beehive monitoring system. We have to do it all ourselves with very limited resources. Nevertheless, when two co-founders form a team with truly complementary skillsets, they can make it happen. We formed a great relationship with the one other bee-related company in our cohort - ZUS Biotech. They are developing a lab-cultured bee probiotic to restore their natural microbial balance and stop bee decline.”
BeeSage has launched its Smart Beehive Scales in December and has been growing the sales numbers 63% per month on average. They'll continue working towards their mission of enabling bees to share knowledge with the human race through real-time data, thus influencing policymakers towards environmental protection.
Europe is full of potential agritech successes by the way. Do you remember us previously mentioning the space age in agriculture? CropSafe is a perfect example of that! They have created an app that combines AI and satellite images to detect diseases in crop fields. With this information, farmers can pinpoint their sprays, reducing the impact that these chemicals have on the environment while saving money.
The Northern Irish company was selected to one cohort of Pioneer, the experimental fund and network for ambitious people and founders. CropSafe was also one of 12 finalists in the Invent 2019 competition for start-ups in Northern Ireland, where it won the prize for the best agri-science product.
Can you imagine your protein shake containing flies? It may sound strange and like something from the future, but it’s (almost) here and it makes sense. Grinsect was founded in 2020 as the first insect protein-producing facility in Hungary. They have just received seed investment from venture capital Impact Ventures. Their business is breeding and processing black soldier fly larvae and their new factory will have a production capacity of 6 metric tons per day.
Their mission is to provide the animal sector (so not necessarily your favorite shake) with access to insect breeding and environmentally friendly protein production. The startup is about to make insect protein popular in the domestic animal feeding sector.
As you can see one of the most effective responses to the pressing challenges of agriculture is to increase the level of digitalisation in the sector. And we are talking about three major challenges here.
Stakes are high, the task is noble. Startups are on it!