Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Investment in agriculture technology skyrocketing; The Economist takes a deep dive into it

Investment in agriculture technology nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015, from $2.4 billion to $4.6 billion, Rob Leclerc reports for Forbes. Michael Macrie, chief information officer at agriculture cooperative Land O’ Lakes said he counted only 20 ag-tech companies as recently as 2010. Currently, there are at least 503 individual companies raising funding. "The opportunity to bring agriculture, a $7.8 trillion industry representing 10 percent of global GDP, into the modern age has caught the attention of a growing number of investors globally." (Chart from AgFunder’s AgTech Investing Report: 2015: Investment in ag tech)

"There is huge potential, and need, to help the ag industry find efficiencies, conserve valuable resources, meet global demands for protein, and ensure consumers have access to clean, safe, healthy food," Leclerc writes. "In all this, technological innovation is inevitable. It’s a complex and diverse industry, however, with many subsectors for farmers, investors, and industry stakeholders to navigate. Entrepreneurs are innovating across agricultural disciplines, aiming to disrupt the beef, dairy, row crop, permanent crop, aquaculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors. Each discipline has a specific set of needs that will differ from the others."

The Economist magazine's latest Technology Quarterly insert last week was titled "The Future of Agriculture" and carried this intriduction: "If agriculture is to continue to feed the world, it needs to become more like manufacturing, says Geoffrey Carr. Fortunately, that is already beginning to happen." Some of the subheads capture the narrative:
"In various guises, information technology is taking over agriculture"
"Farms need better products. Genomic understanding will provide them"
"Farming marine fish inland will relieve pressure on the oceans"
"Technology can improve not only productivity but animal welfare too"
"Technology will transform farmers’ lives in both the rich and the poor world"

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