Ag Innovation Showcase: Tech can reduce waste at each link in value chain
Opportunities for disruptive innovation exist at each transitional point in the agricultural value chainShow transcript
On the third day of the Ag Innovation Showcase, Bayer and Monsanto announced their $66bn takeover deal – the latest in a series of mergers and acquisitions that has concentrated agricultural power. But there are opportunities for smaller players to inject innovation into the links in the agricultural value chain, say delegates in St Louis, by making transitions more efficient and decreasing waste. Registration is now open for the Ag Innovation Showcase 2017: visit www.agshowcase.com.
Avi Maidenberg: It’s just a really interesting time in this space. As I mentioned, a lot of consolidation has been happening over the last 12-18 months. There’s also a tremendous amount of opportunities for a lot of small and medium sized companies to really make an impact in this space, because the big ones are shrinking, and there are not many of them left!
Claire Kinlaw: So, there’s a disruption of the whole food value chain, to meet customers’ interests. Which is churning innovation at all kinds of levels, and places along the food chain.
Big areas like precision ag, data, automation; those have just gotten more sophisticated, more integrated. Trying to aim for farmer solutions, not just individual technologies. Also in inputs: reducing the impact on the environment, reducing the cost of inputs, reducing the amount of inputs you put on, so that has both a cost benefit and an environmental benefit.
Sam Fiorello: So the trend that I see, that’s really been amazing, and just in the eight years of the Ag Showcase, is the movement for big data and data analytics infused into agriculture. To making decisions, to machine learning, to vision learning, quadcopters and sensors throughout farms now. So, it used to be those engineers, those techies in Silicon Valley were here, and biologists were there. Well, there’s a confluence now.
Rohit Shukla: Another area that I think is incredibly important is new sources of food. We simply have to have them.
Sam Fiorello: Farmers are always looking for different types of food sources that they can produce, that will be mitigate the risk that have higher values, the example was in 1945 there were no soy beans raised in the US. It was a new crop brought from Asia; and now corn and soy bean are the kings. And so, that kind of search for alternative crops, for alternative uses, is going on all the time.
Rohit Shukla: The issue there has to do with really being able to understand how it is that we create new ways of growing food, and new food itself, new food sources. So crickets, for example. An incredible, incredible part of the meal that is fed to our animals, that then we eat. This is something that I think we’re only beginning to understand now, beyond the cottage industry of crickets that might be served at certain specialty restaurants.
Claire Kinlaw: If we could create what we need and simply recycle what we produce out the other end, and not have waste, all the better.
So we’ve taken a look at some innovation at various points in the value chain. And there are many opportunities to innovate there, so…
Sam Fiorello: …there’s waste that happens in the farm fields. Then moving it, storing it, sorting it. And all those points along the value chain, including going to the supermarkets, and the supermarkets throwing out large amounts of produce.
There are opportunities in all of those points to reduce waste through infusion of technology and new practices.
Claire Kinlaw: Starting from the field. Get more food out of the field, all the way to the other end. Don’t send it from a grocery store to a landfill; take food and then produce, say, fertiliser, using an anaerobic digestion system. Or feed it to crickets and make protein. Or connect with the food donation system.
Sam Fiorello: Those challenges mean opportunities for startups, and we’ll see a lot of presenting companies here looking at ways to infuse technology into one of those kinks in that chain to make it more efficient.
Claire Kinlaw: And so, all along the chain. Just don’t waste it.