Innovative Agtech Communities Are the Answer to Our Future Global Needs
Good news always seems to come with a caveat. Case in point: Studies show both established and developing nations increasing their meat consumption, putting pressure on the food supply as it takes 10.6 pounds of feed and eight gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. And with the world’s population expected to rise to almost 10 billion by 2050, that supply chain will become even more strained. Food demand could see a steep increase of up to 98 percent.
Now, farmers are faced with the reality that they’ll have to increase their production across the board by 60 percent in as few as two generations if they want to keep up. Add to that the need for sustainability improvements, farm-to-fork food tracking, consumer labeling, and greater outputs — it’s a pressure-cooker environment. How can agriculture professionals hope to provide integrated global solutions that adequately feed, fuel, and clothe our growing planet?
The solution can be found in pockets of innovation and agtech expertise spread across the country in states like Missouri, West Virginia, and California.
Powerful Agtech Leaders From Coast to Coast
But what will the farm of the future look like?
You can find out by visiting Sacramento, which has gained serious traction now that consumers are getting savvier about the plant-based foods they’re choosing. There’s a blossoming agtech startup scene there, with at least 18 startups dotting this fertile community; that number is expected to rise thanks to its location in a region where it’s easy to grow modern cash crops like almonds.
You’ll find the same innovative mindset at play on the other side of the country in West Virginia. A partnership among several entities, including the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, culminated in an Agricultural Innovation Summit that attracted more than 300 entrepreneurs of all ages and career stages. The summit introduced participants to the wonders of inspired, high-tech agricultural solutions made possible by drones, virtual welding, and 3D printers.
And my home state, Missouri, won’t be left behind. We’ve launched 39 North, an innovation district of almost 600 acres in St. Louis County. Industry leaders like Monsanto, KWS, and the Danforth Plant Science Center are already in the district; the endgame is to establish an agtech anchor in the community and build on the global leadership in agtech that Missouri is becoming known for.
No single company can provide all the answers, which is why these innovative agtech communities will be essential to the industry moving forward. Having leading companies next door to each other creates partnership and collaboration opportunities. As food demand grows, they’ll be better positioned to succeed at increasing crop production and meeting the needs of a rapidly changing world.
Finding the Right Agtech Community
Based on what I’ve seen in Missouri, every agtech CEO should seek to engage and partner with other agtech companies. This is the time to make allies out of competitors; otherwise, the entire industry could have difficulty answering the increasing challenge of satisfying food demand.
When you’re ready to embrace the forward-thinking strategies of these agtech communities, consider your options carefully. To optimize your own company’s ability to meet increasing demands, look for the following three strategic benefits in your community before setting up shop.
1. Partnership-Focused Atmospheres
The key to solving the global food challenge is working together to find a way to meet real and anticipated demands. At the same time, you need to ensure food safety and traceability, sustainable practices, and global infrastructure access. The agtech community you join must also enable you to rapidly and securely transport seeds, chemicals, big data, and — in some cases — foods while keeping a close eye on eco-conscientiousness.
2. Top Talent Attraction
Talent is key no matter which innovation community you choose. Look for one that promotes innovative solutions to attracting and training talented people, such as a two-year community college program that retrains auto technicians to become agtech technicians or apprenticeship programs. In Kansas City, Missouri, for example, a multiyear, reality-based regional branding program keeps talent flowing into the area.
3. Investor Support
Finding the answers that the agriculture industry needs requires an influx of capital. Having financial and intellectual investors who are actively engaged in agtech growth is vital for communities that want to lead the industry by generating startups and appealing to companies around the world. For agtech businesses hoping to flourish, having access to capital is essential when choosing an innovation community.
Businesses working hand-in-hand toward a greater good: That’s the model innovative agtech communities are using across the country. It works. As the demand for food production increases, companies looking to stay ahead of the curve should get on board.
With more than 30 years of experience leading economic development efforts across Missouri, Steve Johnson, CEO of Missouri Partnership, works with agtech companies evaluating Missouri for investment and agtech leaders across the state working to attract those companies, giving him a unique perspective on the agtech industry.