Where have all the Farmers Gone?

On January the 18th we were invited by our good friends at FOODnext to attend the iVenture Summit – Invest in the Future of Agriculture.

In a room filled with business suits but strangely enough not a lot of farmers (as pointed out by one of the panellists) we were guided through a range of different topics that were masterfully managed by among others Adam Anders from Anterra Capital. When discussing what the new face of agricultural innovation would look like, i.e. what the new disruptive ideas would be, the discussion included many though-provoking statement.

It is easy to detect that there has been a shift in the agricultural sphere when one is being told that the most important tool a farmer can possess today, is a smartphone. Not knowledge that has been passed down through generations or a piece of farming equipment that have been designed to relieve some of the burden of manual labour, but a smartphone. The reason for this is quite interesting and as the panel would deduct, essential to understanding how the future of agriculture will be shaped.

One of the major obstacles that still lie ahead of implementing great innovations within agriculture is the fact that farming is in essence a slow moving business. Farmers are still at the mercy of natural cycles and the different seasons will occur at their own discretion. This is troublesome as many of the innovations we see are dependent upon assembling data in order to create solutions that will optimize both yield and harvest. One of the panel discussions provided insight into this when explaining that computers rely on patterns to repeat often in order for it to make sense of information gathered, and as farming does not follow this trend the implementation of AI might be difficult. A division occurred in the panel as some still favoured attempting to bring in more AI solutions while others continued to believe that the human element cannot and should not be discarded. When opening up the floor to the audience one comment sparked a continuance of this discussion as it was asked why there still were actual people driving tractors in Germany instead of implementing more AI solutions. Why indeed?

During the afternoon the importance of family offices were discussed when focusing on the investment landscape in a segment labelled “Venture Capital meets Agriculture”. It was disclosed that no unicorn has as of yet been sighted in the agricultural sector, however it is not unreasonable to suggest that this might indeed occur within the next two years. This exciting statement came on the heel of determining that the new approach to investments might be found through social media and the consumer him/herself. All fascinating thoughts and it paved the way for introducing the presenting companies that conveyed innovations covering everything from weed-killing robots to satellites for environmental intelligence.

All in all it was an incredibly rewarding day with many interesting topics and insightful keynotes on the future of agriculture. Still, you find yourself reflecting upon the statement made as to why there were so few farmers in the audience, perhaps it is as simple as to say that they may be found on their tractors.

Thanks to AGCO and partners for a great initiative!

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