The 3rd World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit and inaugural Rethink Ag & Food Innovation Week in San Francisco was a forum for many of the world’s leading experts in 21st century agri-tech.
Interactive panels, roundtables, technology pitching sessions, and hundreds of one-on-one meetings took place between Summit delegates and potential partners and clients.
Speaker-led sessions addressing the Summit 2017 theme, Breakthrough Applications and Business Models for Sustainable Farming, “sparked healthy debate around the potential for innovation in farming systems” m with hot topics including satellites; AI and robotics; gene-editing; and the spoil microbiome.
10 key takeaways from WATIS and Rethink, San Fran
Last year's World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit and Rethink event in San Francisco generated a tractor-load of tips for ag-tech innovators, investors and entrepreneurs.
Here are what the Summit organisers deemed to be the top 10 takeaways from 2017.
“As the ag industry moves into a state of very high concentration, sourcing innovation will become highly competitive”, states WATIS, noting that second-tier players “will have to step up” to stay competitive.
Corporate and start-up partnership models
Early engagement will be crucial to developing products focused on real market needs and aligned with corporate partners’ strategic goals, and will help avoid costly process delays.
Next-gen plant technologies and crops
Four bio-technologies have “the greatest potential to add value in food and agriculture”, says WATIS – they are:
- gene editing;
- consumer-driven plant breeding;
- soil microbiome management: and
- biological pesticides.
As the adoption of GM technologies in agriculture will be driven, ultimately, by consumers’ acceptance of these technologies, the ag industry needs to engage in clear and constructive dialogue with consumers to gain a “social license” to use gene-editing technologies in food production.
Farmers may need to be incentivised to invest in soil health – while “rapid ROI for the grower is critical”, Summit delegates also recognised that “soil health needs to be looked at as a long-term investment”.
New technologies with the greatest potential to disrupt the ag supply chain include:
- traceability from field to plate;
- the convergence of data and genetics; and
- robotics – their adoption driven by scarcity and/or cost of skilled labour.
Predictive analytics and forecasting
Powerful predictive and forecasting analytics could, potentially, transform the food and ag industries – provided all this data is used to boost on-farm efficiencies as well as to drive change along the supply chain.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) and robotics
“Today’s robotic and automated technology is good at executing well defined (open-loop) tasks”, WATIS notes, adding that “the next evolution will be the advancement of true artificial intelligence ... that can support real-time decision making and performance optimization.
Latin America opportunities
Ag-tech entrepreneurs have several opportunities in the Latin American region; they include farm connectivity, weather data analytics, soil analysis and integrated farm management packages. And similar opportunities exist in developing regions across the globe.
The agriculture industry and its communication channels have focused too strongly on explaining the science of the technology – GMO, for instance – as opposed to “telling a story” According to WATIS, “consumer education through storytelling will be increasingly important in ag-tech and must start from the farmer”.
World Ag-Tech Innovation Summit showreel
Check out this showreel from Rethink Events, filmed at sister event the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, London, in October 2017. It’s a taste of what it's like to be part of a WATIS gathering (held annually in London and San Francisco), with industry bigshots from Monsanto, Trimble and VitalFields weighing in on the value of attending.
2018 World Ag-Tech Innovation Summits
“Each year we see more and more innovation happening in every part of the industry, from start-ups to the global seed and chemical businesses,” saya Jennie Moss, Founder of summit organisers Rethink Events.
“The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit brings the whole industry together to identify the most exciting opportunities in agtech and to forge new business deals and partnerships to help make them a reality.”
The US iteration of the 2018 World Ag-Tech Innovation Summit, Connecting Innovation, Investment and Business in Food and Farming Systems, incorporating Pitch Day, is scheduled for 19-21 March in San Francisco, California. There's a UK version in London on 16-17 October.
For more information, visit the official event site or check AgInnovators’ event listings.
Source: World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit/Rethink