Inrecent years, the number of agricultural startups has grown quickly asentrepreneurs work to apply technology to common farming problems. Throughtechnology, it may be possible to increase yields, reduce waste, and ultimatelybring more food to market around the world. Today, farmers are inundated with avariety of options to solve their problems. Entrepreneurs have developed a widerange of different applications for cutting-edge technologies, such asblockchain and artificial intelligence. Due to the many different options, it hasbecome tough for farmers to determine which are the best products and mostbeneficial to the bottom line. That being said, a number of companies have demonstrateda lot of promise, and individuals in the food and agriculture industries shouldpay close attention to them. Some of these startups include:
Based in Illinois,EarthSense aims to automate field management through the use of small,autonomous robots that identify issues like weeds through machine learning. Theserobots use chemical-free methods of weed eradication, including mechanicalremoval, in order to keep fields healthy. The current robot model measures11-by 20-inches and weighs only 30 pounds. GPS and built-in sensors help therobots to navigate the fields themselves as they collect data using optionalsensors and cameras. Part of what makes these robots so valuable is the datathey will collect on crop breeding and trial fields, which will help to bringmore sustainable crop varieties to the market. The information collected willalso help individual farmers to manage their fields more effectively in orderto maximize yields.
A Silicon Valley company,TeleSense addresses the issue of stored grain being ruined. The company hascreated a proprietary sensor that collects continuous data on temperature,moisture, and other factors in grain storage facilities. Artificialintelligence built into the product helps farmers to make the best decisionsabout when to sell grain or store it, as well as when to move or blend thegrain. Data collection enables predictive analytics that can significantlyreduce the amount of food that goes to waste. This year, TeleSense will bringproducts for large grain elevators and co-ops to the market. Next year, thecompany aims to offer products optimized for smaller operations once the sensoris cost-optimized.
As farmers gain a greaterappreciation for how soil microbiomes affect crop yields and plant stability,they will need products to monitor their environment. Trace Genomics hopes tofill this space with an analytics platform that makes use of gene sequencingand artificial intelligence, as well as a continually expanding database ofmicrobes, in order to profile soils. Then the system provides actionable tipson how to maximize efficiency by reducing the risk of disease and minimizinginput costs. Essentially, the system can help farms to decide which seeds touse when, as well as which biological agents will have the greatest effect.
Another company working inthe field of microbe research, Indigo Agriculture takes a unique approach tothe issue. The company employs data analytics and machine learning to create amassive database of which microbes work best with which crops in order tomaximize yields. Then, the company manufactures specialized seeds that arecoated with the microbes most commonly associated with high yields in thatspecies. This approach takes much of the guesswork and continual monitoring outof the equation for farmers and empowers them to improve overall plant healthwhile growing more produce and earning more money without relying on harmfulchemical fertilizers. Indigo Agriculture may also have a potential market amonghome gardeners.
Up to half of syntheticnitrogen fertilizers applied to crops can get washed away as a result ofunpredictable weather or other environmental factors. The ecological andeconomic impact of this waste is great. Pivot Bio offers a rather uniquesolution. The company has developed microbes that produce fertilizing nitrogen.The microbes adhere closely to the roots of corn plants and release nitrogenthroughout the growing season. Farmers can easily use the product to eliminatethe need to apply additional nitrogen while also making yields more predictableand reducing runoff that ends up in waterways. The microbes have a symbioticrelationship with corn plants and fix nitrogen directly from the air. Theproduct is already available direct to farmers in certain markets.
A Wisconsin-based startup,Understory helps farmers to deal with some of the unpredictability of weather. Thefounders of Understory began the company with the intention of providing a moreaccurate method of gathering weather data. The company offers weather stationsthat produce hyper-local weather data that can be placed in the field toprovide farmers with more information in order to make critical decisions. Thestations, which are constructed to last for up to 10 years, run on solar powerwith no need for maintenance. The data collected from the weather stationshelps farmers to make a wide range of different decisions, such as when toharvest or irrigate fields.