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AgriTech: The future of food production

October 26
07:39 2021

It has been said that by 2050, world population would have hit nine billion people needing food, and our planet is currently experiencing a lot of stress. Food and Agriculture, as we know it today, top the chart when it comes to threat to rivers, lakes, and coastal environments, while about 40 percent of all cropland globally experiences soil erosion, grossly reduced fertility, or overgrazing from livestock. These changes in our climate will continue to affect the ways we grow our food, but what could be an efficient way out?

There is a more from less view that addresses the future of food production from waste reduction, value addition, and collaboration; while there is yet another that speaks to responsible production. In most tropical region, forests are being converted to pastures and farmland, with up to 80 percent of all new tropical farmland being created by replacing forests with huge environmental costs, which poses great hazard to human existence. What if we could produce 50 percent more food without utilizing new farmland by simply increasing yields, shifting diets, and using water and fertilizer more efficiently through technology? Do we really have enough food for the approximately 7 billion people living today? Statistics show that nearly a billion are hungry or malnourished, primarily due to poverty and unequal distribution. How do we feed those who are currently hungry and the possible additional 2 billion people who will be living on same planet by 2050?

Moreover, some have projected that crop production will need to increase by between 60 and 100 percent. It is obvious that “business as usual” could lead to a doubling of demand for agricultural production. Looking to History, demand for increased crop production was driven largely by wealthy countries in North America and Europe, and this will be joined by an additional 3 to 4 billion people already on Earth who are getting wealthier through technology, mostly in India and China (but, Nigeria needs to join this train through massive drive towards a technology leapfrog). Richer communities usually want richer foods, which includes meat and dairy products. We also have postulations that two-thirds of the growing crop calorie demand will be an offshoot from growing affluence.

Some of the challenges being looked into by Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN include: Sustainably improving agricultural productivity to meet increasing demand, Ensuring a sustainable natural resource base; Addressing climate change and intensification of natural hazards; Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality; Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition; and Making food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient among others.

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How can AgriTech help address some of these global issues? And what are some people currently doing to proffer solutions to some of the aforementioned challenges?  What can the Nigerian Government and visionary Entrepreneurs learn from top 5 AgriTech Companies according to IndustryWired? New technology trends like augmented reality and IoT are gradually making agricultural processes more precise, profitable and sustainable. The advancements in AgriTech have elevated the global economy for good. AgriTech solutions like high-tech drones (used to monitor farm water levels, humidity, temperature and fertilizer requirements), IoT devices (with sensors to track farms data realtime) and data analytics (to deduce trends and patterns based on real farm numbers) are leading the way to address the above-mentioned challenges.

Would you believe that the AgriTech sector currently has over 8,100 startups that utilize technology to solve farming challenges?

Below are some AgriTech business examples from around the world:

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AgNext (https://agnext.com/ – total funding $25.1m in 4 rounds): It is an India-based AgriTech start-up that offers innovation to agricultural value chains with technologies that digitizes food quality and safety while providing end-to-end traceability. The company applies computer vision, spectral analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) to instantly analyze and produce results for food quality to ensure better trade, more production, more efficient warehousing and healthier consumption.

Unnati Agritech (https://unnatiagri.com/): The company is a new-age FinTech powered digital farming solution that offers end-to-end support for farmers across India. With Unnati’s goal being to ensure that it drives profitable entrepreneurship, financial stability and make farmers confident about farming their business. They provide an AI powered tech platform that brings together agricultural input providers, farmers and agriculture produce buyers that improves productivity and efficiency for all stakeholders.

Meicai (https://www.meicai.cn/ – total funding $1.5bn in 8 rounds) is a Chinese start-up that connects vegetable farmers with restaurants while grabbing a large slice of the fragmented food sourcing market. Meicai commits to using avant-garde concepts and advanced technology to change the backward domestic agricultural market, focusing on supplying nearly one million restaurants across the country. The offer full-category, full-process worry-free procurement services for meals and food ingredients.

WayCool Foods & Products Pvt Ltd (https://waycool.in/ total funding $111.4m in 13 rounds) An Indian AgriTech company founded in 2015. They opted for a tech approach to the food supply chain providing one stop shop with multiple product categories, and farm to fork traceability. They work with a base of about 50,000 famers engaging with them through the entire cultivation cycle, from planning to inputs to harvesting. They use tech to measure soil health, quality of inputs and yield strength, thereby offering better productivity to farmers.

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AgriBazaar (https://www.agribazaar.com/home) is a one-stop AgriTech platform that makes use of intelligent and intuitive systems for delivering future-ready solutions to shape Indian agriculture. AgriBazaar drives efficiency in agri-business payments while providing a platform for Agric products trading. They focus on dependability, consistency, and sustainability of the fragmented agri-businesses.

You will be amazed that the technology-connect revolutionizes the efficiency and effectiveness of the food and agriculture deliverable, while offering customers myriads of choices and a feedback channel for continuous improvement. What can we learn from these great innovation talents from across the world and apply in customized ways to our unique challenges in Nigeria? Every fruit has within it seeds for its reproduction and our learning or education. What could we do to create better connections with end-to-end value delivery for fruits, vegetables, meat, and cheese lovers starting from where we are? What farm-to-fork, pig-to-pot or grain-to-grind solutions, platforms or value additions can we use to better the lot of humans (Nigerians especially) locally and across the globe? How can you build so much in value that investors, customers and teams local and global, want a portion of the change you are making happen? Yes, we can create bigger wins for every single stakeholder by beginning with the end in mind. How can we more efficiently and effectively feed and nourish the world through technology innovations? I am signing out for now, yours in tech, Olufemi Ariyo.

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