Updates from the AgTech Space

Agriculture Technology has the potential to tackle global problems of climate change and food security. We are happy to have had the opportunity to invest in technologies, such as the Rowbot, that are contributing to improvements in agriculture. Below are recent articles highlighting exciting developments in ag tech globally.

Ag Tech Avalance by Chris Bennett on AgWeb

“Big data and precision ag technology will be the most exciting front in technology for global agriculture for at least the next 20 years,” said Mitch Eviston, WinField senior VP at the 2014 Ag Tech Summit. New tools, devices, apps and precision machinery are pouring into the agriculture market at an increasing rate and with them comes huge amounts of data. In 1980 it cost almost $200,000 to store a gigabyte of data. In 2014 that cost has dropped to less than 4 cents. And technology is continuing to get better and cheaper. David Friedberg, CEO of the Climate Corporation predicts that within the next seven years, we will have a nearly real-time feed of every point on Earth that anyone will be able to access.

But where is the value added from this data? Aaron Ault, farmer and research engineer with the Open Ag Technology Group, believes that real value of data from a farmer’s perspective is the ability to evaluate farm decisions and subsequently make increasingly informed choices. But confusion currently surrounds ag data for agriculture, and farmers are asking ‘why do we need data?’ Cloud cooperation may be the key to solving data problems. Ault suggests the Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA) as a solution. OADA is a way for clouds to communicate and for apps to communicate with clouds, allowing farms to choose a cloud provider, sync everything automatically and share data with whoever he chooses. Ault says, “the way farmers succeed is by being master of logistics. That’s where the OADA opportunity comes in. OADA will allow other people to turn data into answers for a farmer.”

Our portfolio company OnFarm is a good example of a technology platform that is trying to address the overwhelming amounts of data available in agriculture and help farmers find knowledge in the information.

Nanotechnology in Agriculture on Nanowerk

Nanotechnology applications are being researched, tested and in some cases have already been applied in agriculture, food processing, packaging and food supplements. In agriculture, technical innovation is a crucial part of addressing global challenges such as population growth, climate change, and limited natural resources needed for growing. A recent workshop on nanotechnology for the agriculture sector reviewed the R&D of nanotechnology for the agriculture sector and analyzed possible markets and commercial pipeline of product. The workshop covered 4 major sections: Nanotechnology research activities in the agriculture sector, commercial applications of nanotechnology in the agriculture sector, nanotechnology risk assessment and regulation, and the socio-economic issues of agriculture nanotechnology. The full write-up of the proceedings can be read here.

Machine launches new era for N application, cover-crop panting by Phyllis Coulter on Iowa Farmer Today

Invested Development’s portfolio company, Rowbot, is demonstrating field trials of their product all around the Midwest. The Rowbot can be programmed to autonomously run through 30-inch crop rows, delivering nitrogen or seeding cover crops. It has heralded a new era for nitrogen application and cover-crop planting. Farmers are intrigued by the product and what the Rowbot team has accomplished.

“Its number one job is to apply nitrogen in season,” explained Kent Cavender-Bares, Rowbot Services CEO and co-founder. The initial goal in starting the company was to find a better way to apply nitrogen when the crop needs it. Eventually, the Rowbot will be able to apply other pesticides, and feature an automatic-refill system. The Rowbot has a 40-gallon capacity, allowing it to work for about four acres before being refilled. Other uses include seeding cover crops.

The product is still a prototype, and demonstrations are helping the team to refine the product. Farmers examining the new technology say they look forward to using it in their fields.

Climate Smart Farmers Get Tech Savvy to Save India’s Bread Basket by Nita Bhalla on Business Insider

Erratic weather, rising temperatures, declining water resources, and labor shortages are threatening India’s bread basket state of Haryana. In order to save their farms, and ensure food security for the populations, farmers are beginning to abandon age-old practices and adopt new technologies. These technologies include machines that sow seeds directly and tractor-towed, laser-controlled devices that produce a flat surface for cultivation and require 30% less water. Although hesitant to abandon the way they have farmed for generations, these farmers are learning to use these technologies to save water and fertilizer, cut labor costs and improve resilience of crops.

Farmers have even set up cooperatives to pool money and buy machines to share, as these technologies can cost thousands. The investments are paying off. Harpreet Singh, a farmer in the village of Birnaraya, said over the last four years, his income has increased by 15% due to savings made on electricity for irrigation, diesel for residue burning, labor and fertilizers.

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