Food Systems & Sustainable Agriculture

New Technology in Agriculture Creates Opportunity

agriculture technology
January 9, 2018

Although it may be one of humanity’s oldest economic endeavors, agriculture may have a near-limitless capacity for growth and transformation. The development of new technology in agriculture has led to greater yield with less damage to soil and water supplies. And zero-emission farm technology is rapidly becoming reality.

However, some bad has come along with the good. Over the past century, certain agricultural techniques have provided short-term gains, but with heavy long-term costs. For example, the insecticide DDT successfully warded off crop-killing bugs and soon became a fixture on farms. Then, Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring revealed the chemical’s toxic effects on animal life, and it was eventually classified as a carcinogen in humans.

Today’s agronomists and agricultural technologists are developing sustainable technologies that can feed the world without causing damage. Recent developments maintain or even increase yields, but at a sustainable pace that emphasizes long-term needs. Here are three exciting examples of agricultural innovation that investors interested in sustainable agriculture and the environment may want to know about.

Improved Irrigation

Water is critical to growing food, and farmers have long used wind- and solar-powered pumps to bring it to the surface. According to Farm Industry News, new irrigation technology in agriculture is helping them use that water more effectively. Among the developments are improved nozzle designs and soil sensors, remote control of complex irrigation systems, and propane-powered pump engines that are more efficient than standard diesel equipment.

Weeding with Lasers

Escarda Technologies is developing a laser-based weeding system that reduces the need for herbicides. A sensing camera attached to a robot or tractor scans a field, identifies any unwanted plant life, and then shoots the leaves of those plants with lasers, ultimately killing them. This eliminates the need for chemical herbicides that can damage the surrounding environment.

AI Sensing

John Deere’s acquisition of Blue River Technology expands its portfolio of cutting-edge tech to include an innovative camera-based sensor system. This system can analyze plants and decide if they need a shot of herbicide or fertilizer, or if they should be left alone. Thanks to increased precision, the system reduces the amount of chemical herbicides and fertilizers needed for growing, helping keep the land healthier for longer.

Funding Sustainable Agriculture

Some of these developments have been funded by university and government grants. Escarda Technologies, for example, reports that it has received funding from both the European Union and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

But government agencies are not the only ones seeing the value of new technology in agriculture. They’re catching the interest of major corporations and investors, especially those who want to promote the long-term health of the earth. Crunchbase reports that Blue River Technology received funding from several venture capital firms before its sale to John Deere in September 2017.

Supporting technological advancements in agriculture puts investors at the exciting intersection of groundbreaking technologies, enormous economic potential, and critical social benefits—reducing poverty, improving nutrition, and protecting water, soil, and human capital all at once.

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