The digital transformation has brought about changes to our way of life at every level, even the everyday — changes that aren’t necessarily very visible or disruptive. This is a necessary innovation seeing how the current model for agriculture–considering the social and environmental challenges the world faces– is no longer sustainable.
But it’s also about innovation that doesn’t turn its nose up at tradition. Quite the opposite–it embraces that knowledge and spreads it better and faster with big data, improving the taste and quality of products. And it’s the traditional companies, the ones most closely involved in this push for innovation, that need to invest in the most promising startups, so they don’t miss out on the chance to ensure their products are high quality and produced according to a sustainable and robust model.
Back in the 90s, the concept of Precision Agriculture (PA) started to gather speed. This was a new technological approach comprised of GPS, satellite technology and software-enhanced machinery.
Recent figures from the mechanical industry in Europe show that 70-80% of agricultural machinery sold today have at least one component using PA technology. Yet it’s been tough getting the technology to take off in Europe. In Italy for example, only a fraction of agricultural land uses PA technology. According to the watchdog Smart AgriFood, the Italian PA market is worth just €100 million.
Meanwhile in France, Germany and the UK, companies that have adopted PA techniques exceed 20%, and in the US this number reaches 80%. Farming 4.0 isn’t just a necessary evolution, it’s also useful for facing the impending food emergency: it’s estimated that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and natural resources aren’t infinite.
Climate change, pesticides and mono culture are causing bees to die in droves. On the back of this worrying trend, Walmart recently filed a patent to create systems and methods to automatically pollinate fields — so basically a robotic version of the work bees naturally do. As they’ve been saying for a while, robots are our greatest allies for the future –who knows if that will also be true for the bees.
The American chain plans to create drones equipped with sensors and cameras that can monitor and ensure that pollination happens correctly. The patent is of huge importance for Walmart, especially when you consider that in the United States, this multinational cultivates a huge amount of land to produce the products that fill the shelves of its American stores. After all, robot bees could be the answer to the rise of farming 4.0, which would increase yields, and contribute to lower prices and higher quality products.
Artificial intelligence in the agriculture sector is a market that was worth $431.6 million in 2015, and recent research predicts it will grow 22% by 2025. The growing need for better yields, along with increasing food consumption spurs this market to grow more and more. That’s not all. According to Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest business banks in the world, the hardware and software for the agricultural revolution will make up a worldwide market of $240 billion by 2050.
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