Agriculture today is a fast-growing industry aiming to disrupt antique farming practices with cutting edge technologies. Agritech (agriculture technology) can be products, services or applications derived from agriculture to advance a range of input or output processes associated with agriculture. The industrial revolution is touted as a major turning point for agriculture technology and several numbers of startups globally have emerged at the forefront of this new frontier.
When looking at market reports, startups in the space clinched around US$17 billion in investment capital this year, a 43% increase from 2018.
Agritech involves a broad array of technologies and applications, including drones, satellite photography and sensors, IoT-based sensor networks, phase tracking, weather forecasts, automated irrigation, light and heat control, intelligent software analysis for pest and disease prediction, soil management and other involved analytical tasks, and biotech.
Now let’s look at how startups in this space are aiming to transform agriculture through their innovation.
Rootwave, a Kineton, Warwickshire, UK-based startup, created an innovative way to kill weeds without the use of toxic herbicides. Started in 2012, the company’s product is currently aimed at small scale farmers and gardeners. Its handheld RootWave device extirpates weeds with an electric pulse that boils the plant from the roots upwards.
Rootwave’s solution eradicates the threat of dangerous chemicals to the ecosystem, as well as combating the rising issue of herbicide resistance in weed populations.
Based in Athens, Greece, Augmenta has built a smart, robotic system, named the “Field Analyzer”, which is designed to assist farmers to accurately fertilize and spray their fields. The system combines a piece of hardware that joins to field equipment and automates the amount and timing of field treatments. By using Augmenta’s web platform, the farmer monitors progress from a table.
According to Augmenta, its Field Analyzer is currently in beta testing. Additionally, it claims that its technology can improve crop yields by up to 12%, enhance crop quality by up to 20% and reduce fertilizer use by 15%.
Hectare Agritech is the UK-based startup that developed blockchain-driven trading platforms for grain and livestock buyers and sellers. Founded by a cattle farmer Dan Luff, the company aims to improve price and purchasing transparency in both sectors, which are otherwise known for being heavily relationship-based and bunged with intermediaries. Hectare Agritech’s two trading platform – SellMyLivestock and Graindex – allow farmers to sell their products directly from their farms and handle payments through the company’s digital payment system, FarmPay.
Seated in Somerville, Massachusetts, Root AI is a research company, developing artificial intelligence and robotics to support the indoor farming sector. The company is working on a harvesting robot, Virgo, for controlled climates, like greenhouse and glasshouse farm operations. Root AI’s Virgo is designed to be dexterous and harvest the same way a person does. To date, the company’s bot has learned how to pick tomatoes, but Root AI’s founder asserts that the hardware can be used for a variety of crops.
Stockholms Lan, Sweden-based startup Ignitia is an independent tropical weather forecast company serving climate-vulnerable farmers in tropical regions. The company provides hyper-local weather updates, through SMS, based on GPS location. It collaborates with development agencies, NGOs, agricultural input businesses, and mobile network operators to offer and spread precise and location-specific weather forecasts for small-scale farmers. Ignitia claims that its service is reliable 84% of the time down to a three-square-kilometer range.
GreenLight Biosciences, a Massachusetts-based privately-held biotechnology startup, making bio-pesticides that are highly targeted to specific pest varieties, such as the Colorado Potato Beetle, which ensures that neither plants nor other insect and animal species are affected. The company is focused on the sustainable production of chemicals and fuels using its Unconstrained Metabolism ® technology platform that allows the biological conversion of economical, renewable substrates to valuable products with unprecedented flexibility and control.