The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that our food supply chain is highly dependent on human labour. Industries need to understand that turning digital is key for the future.
Large parts of the food system have suffered labour shortages due to regulatory limitations, labour availability and health hazards for workers. This bump in the food system road has clearly demonstrated that we require automation. We need to spread across each level of the supply chain; including better crop management and predictability to apply labour to the right parts of the food system. Logistics are similarly needed to increase tech support in order to gain efficiencies and attain an optimal flow of goods to consumers.
Becoming digital is the solution: Cost efficiency, sustainability, food safety
Agrifood is one of the last industries to switch to digital; its a system based on physical goods and has therefore always been more difficult to evolve to the digital world. At Food Entrepreneurs we tend to say that “capital changes markets” and during the last few years investors have realized there is big potential for raising and breeding better food for humans. Investments in AgriFood Tech startups have registered 43% year-over-year growth.
We reach this conclusion at a dramatic turnpoint, the scale of human needs is pushing the production limits of the current agrifood system and means we need to introduce better, and more efficient and sustainable methods to continue to nurture ourselves.
The current crisis means we need to prepare for the future and maintain a solid food system that remains operational even during a crisis.
Changing an industry isnt easy but its an opportunity, *Nicholas Negroponte (an early internet guru) wrote that the border of physical and digital are the areas that produce the largest amount of opportunities. Agrifood is currently on the verge of this transition.
The food system is very complex and traditional technologies can barely cope with it without relying on significant clerical work to sustain data systems. AI coupled with IoT (Internet of Things) sensor arrays is the key to extract data from each step of the supply chain and generate important knowledge.
Indoor proximity farming is certainly the most promising set of technologies we have at the moment; offering low resource consumption, a smaller carbon footprint and highly accurate and predictable crops.
Field and arable land recovery, robotic farming and water management are also technology sets that will be shaking up traditional farming in years or even months to come.
Adapting to expectations
Farmers need to realize their future (and ours) depend on the recovery of land and we all must learn how to make better use of this finite resource. They need to see the value of these disruptions; scary and challenging yes, but also effective. One of the biggest challenges of implementing new technology is convincing farmers that it will yield results.
Change is a prerequisite to disruption and you must have a product which solves a painful problem in a significantly better way than already existing solutions, or that serves a need which hasnt already been satisfied. The best way to do this is collaborating with farmers just as Tortuga is doing for example.
From a consumers´ point of view its much easier to communicate this value. Nutritious food is needed to make our society bigger and better. A consumer is willing to try any new technology you make available, and these technologies will always thrive if they provide real value to clients. Many startups are working on this value communication through messages like “HOW WE MAKE PERFECT DAIRY PROTEINS WITHOUT COWS”: by Perfect Day.
Startups are listening to their clients (farmers, companies and consumers) to deliver their value message. These companies have technology in their DNA and they know how to sell it.
Extra reading: * Nicholas Negroponte & his book “Being Digital-1995”.