The Ultimate Farming Tool is Data
Data is shaking up the current food production mechanisms
The agricultural food production mechanisms and their tight dependency on nature have always left little room for operational agility. Now, thanks to Agritech, and more specifically, data, farmers can meet supply and demand efficiently, and reduce losses and uncertainty from plagues and bad weather.
When we look at Agritech, there are broadly two ways in which startups are making farmers’ life easier: reengineering the products or optimizing the creation of the existing products. The first is more focused on R&D — what the Beyond Burger has been doing — and the latter is more focused on data processing and analytics.
By now, everyone is quite aware of the existence of food substitutes for meat and so on, thanks to the news coverage of the Beyond Burger lucrative IPO and its controversial nature — meatless meat, everyone! What people are not as aware of are data-intensive companies aiming at solving modern food supply problems in creative ways.
Farming is becoming data-intensive
Agritech software is allowing farmers to utilize data to boost their sales, predict the value of their crops before harvesting, and remove the uncertainty that plagues and lousy weather brings to plants; software puts the farmer in control. By gathering farming data, AI models allow farmers to understand the value and opportunities of their crops better.
Which are the companies that are empowering farmers all around? There’s a big chunk of them coming from Israel — a country characterized by their solvency when faced with agricultural adversities. One of the most notorious is Taranis, a four-year-old Tel Aviv based startup utilizing the data pulled from drones surveilling fields to predict and prevent crop diseases and pest losses. It can envision the health of the crops, detect insects and weeds early, growth problems, and many other actionable quandaries.
Also, coming from Israel, we got Prospera Technologies. The company pulls data from the farmer’s crops and also uses macroeconomic data pulled from the web. The software manipulates this data so that the farmer can visually track supply and demand balances, and in this way, plan ahead of the market. This solution enhances the sales team of farmer companies, with an outstanding 95% of accuracy. The company was founded in 2014 and has already raised a total of $22M after its recent Series B.
Startups are also tackling the adverse effects of transport of these short-lived products. Coming from Berlin, we got Infarm, an urban farming services company that develops farming tech in grocery stores, restaurants, and local distribution centers.
Infarm is developing smart farms in cities: vertical farms inside of supermarkets, restaurants, and so on, from where customers can get fresh vegetable produces. Each of these farms connects to the cloud allowing Infarms biologists, agronomists, and engineers to understand the growth and health of plants and use the data to continually adjust and improve the conditions under which the plants grow in real-time. The results are healthy and fresh grown plants that have removed the negative externalities of transport.
According to Infarm, given that 7 billion people will be living in urban centers by 2050, the ability to use the city landscape for vibrant, sustainable agriculture will be a fundamental step to ensuring sustainable cities and a sustainable future.
I spoke to the co-founders of Infarm, the Galonska brothers. Guy Galonska, CTO at Infarm, gave me his take on why data is a game-changer in the agricultural and food production space. “Data is providing an unbiased look into the inner workings of how crops grow, and it gives valuable insight into what can be done better.” As he puts it, infrastructure has been the leading enabler. “The combination of increased computing power & mobile connectivity have an immense potential to drive much-needed optimization across the entire supply chain.”
Software is now feeding the world.
— Guy Galonska, CTO & Co-Founder at Infarm
After raising a $100M Series B funding round this past June, led by Atomico, Infarm is now expanding globally, to bring smart and quality-efficient farming to a global scale. As Guy Galonska puts it, “Software is now feeding the world.”
Some may argue that Agritech and Foodtech look more impressive on the food R&D-intensive side — it’s thrilling to envision new products that replace the traditional ones; it allows business processes to leap exponentially. Nevertheless, agricultural automatization and data analytics can have a positive impact by turning farming smart. Even though the advances may seem at first marginal, taking the uncertainty of climate change or plagues out of the equation and having a better knowledge of the state of their product is a big game-changer for farmers.