Unleashing deeptech innovation for the next age of food and agriculture
How next-gen startups are reinventing the industry by leveraging breakthrough technologies and business models
This article is a guest post written by our friends at Thought For Food.
Only 20 years ago, no one would have imagined the accelerating growth of disruptive business models like Uber, Airbnb or Tencent, which are existing and operating thanks to digital technologies. Notwithstanding the fact that we need to discuss and develop frameworks and practices that keep the usage of emerging technologies within the ethical standards we value as a society, we also must remember that the technologies themselves are enabling tools. It is still us humans who determine the purpose and intent of things like artificial intelligence, robotics or blockchain.
Undoubtedly (and excitingly), we’re facing an incredible range of tech-driven enablers that might help solve the world’s biggest challenges — such as food security.
Aiming to feed the 9+ billion people expected to inhabit the planet at this time, tech-driven innovation must be part of the solution. And, the “next generation” of digital natives between 15 and 34, being the largest population alive, could arguably turn out to be the sweet spot of co-creating a sustainable future food system.
Big data, blockchain, and biotech — these are just a few of the technologies young innovators are embracing to transform the food and agriculture sector. The opportunities are certainly profound, and as we see venture capital investments increasing in the food and ag tech space since 2012, the time is right for the next generation to jump in and leverage new technologies and create bold solutions that make positive impact in the world.
Need some inspiration? Let us introduce:
3 Examples of Tech-Driven Innovation Turned into Reality By Millennials
Big data meets agriculture
Innovation in the digital agriculture space is gaining momentum, as the software market for precision farming tools, such as yield monitoring and weather forecasting, are enabling farm productivity in a whole new dimension. After the mechanization in the previous industrial age, we’re now entering the fourth industrial revolution, and with it, the rise of smart machines and tools.
Agrosmart, a Brazilian startup, took on this opportunity and developed an interconnected data-driven platform for farmers, combining both hardware and software. By collecting data from farm inputs and environmental conditions, their software helps farmers to utilize current and historical data to increase crop yields as well as farm efficiency. In addition, meteorological
data and image processing allow to make effective real-time precision agriculture decisions.
Aiming to take farmers to the next level of digital, data-driven agriculture, Agrosmart is renting their hardware which incorporates the respective software.
Today, Agrosmart has helped different stakeholders across the food value chain to increase their production in a more sustainable way, while also improving climate resilience. From working with smallholder farmers to key industry players like Coca-Cola, Raízen and Syngenta, the team of young entrepreneurs is making a significant contribution to the digitized future of
how we feed ourselves.
Synthetic Biology reveals the hidden potentials
Biotech innovations with specific applications and alternatives in food and ag are accelerating the progress of shaping natural systems and, more importantly, creating entirely new ones.
While synthetic biology is already practiced by researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs, the global synthetic biology market is projected to grow to $16 billion by this year. Besides the fascinating potential of creating new foods like algae butter and meat without the animal, synbio solutions can also make an equal breakthrough in the field of agriculture.
AgroSpheres, a US-based startup founded by millennial entrepreneurs, have developed a powerful platform technology based on next-level bioengineering and industrial fermentation. The team started with producing unique bioparticles using biological and engineering applications on a safe, commonly-used microbe, before seeing the actual, greater potential in the incorporating of necessary enzymes on the bioparticles for the degradation of pesticides. This way, the loss of harvested produce with a high level of residual pesticides can be saved and turned into nutritious produce.
AgroSpheres’ product that emerged literally out of lab experiments in the university, today is being used in several capacities relating to global food security along the food value chain.
Alternative proteins on the way to mainstream
Plant-based meat substitutes and edible insects are examples for alternative proteins that can be produced with less natural input than common protein sources such as meat or fish. Regarding the increasing meat consumption on a global scale, the relevance of finding these types of sources is rising, not only from the side of researchers and innovators, but also from the consumers themselves. Impossible Foods, a company that uses molecular engineering to create plant-based burgers has made it into over 500 US restaurants already and only marks the beginning of pioneering new plant protein types.
The founders of Biteback have created a valuable alternative to solve the issue of deforestation in Indonesia’s palm oil production. By focusing their idea on the problem and its implications on the people first, the startup has successfully set the stage for a sustainable chain of insect-based products — from cooking oil, soap to biofuel.
What unifies these three impactful solutions is a strong sense of experimentation, entrepreneurial mindset and deep understanding of technology. Connected with the naturally hardwired attitudes of the next generation, such as open-source innovation, putting purpose before paycheck and leveraging shared knowledge, these startups are paving the way for the
next age of food and agriculture, led by the next generation of innovators.
Agrosmart, Agrospheres and Biteback are only three of over 40 startups that have successfully launched with the help of the Thought For Food (TFF) Foundation. The annual TFF Challenge is calling for next-gen innovators between 18–35 to help us feed 9+ billion people by 2050. Empowered by the shared mission of shaping a sustainable future food system, the TFF Community unites a global community of future and present leaders in food and agriculture.
If you have what it takes to turn emerging technology and scientific research into an impactful solution, sign up for the 2018 TFF Challenge and submit your pitch by May 4th, 2018 here! Alternatively, join this year’s first TFF Academy and annual TFF Summit in Rio de Janeiro!