For 11 years, our sales and marketing agency has been focused on helping launch and explain emerging technologies like AI, IoT sensors, drones, robotics, and autonomous driving. What’s been interesting the past few years is the confluence of a number of these technologies that, when combined, are truly transformative. While we see confluence happening in many industries (fleet, retail, construction, supply chain), what’s come into focus most especially for us is the convergence of these technologies for agriculture, or agtech.
We are focusing on ag technologies because agriculture needs smart, cost effective solutions urgently. We live in California where over a third of the country’s vegetables and nearly three-quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown. On top of that, being in the southern part of the state, we are keenly aware of the water situation here.
Call it Climate Change, or just cyclical water patterns, the world is using more water than it has available or can be replenished. I just saw a stat that it would take California 6,000 years to refill our aquifers and restore water tables, despite several record setting storms last year. Areas in the northwest and Midwest that thought they had unlimited supplies are seeing their aquifers run dry. Areas that used to be able to survive on dryland farming aren’t seeing the rains they used to, or they don’t occur at the right times to support crops. I was talking to a researcher in Florida who said they are having droughts. Florida! The Mississippi River is experiencing disastrous salt incursions.
The Future of AgTech: Smart Farms before Smart Cities
Aside from the serious water situation, there are other challenges in agriculture that agtech can assist with including eliminating arduous labor tasks like weeding, harvesting, or scouting. Technology can help identify or give early warning of invading pests or disease. Technology can monitor or mitigate runoff and pollution.
In my time on the CompTIA IoT Advisory Council, it was clear, that while the promise of connected, autonomous smart cities was intriguing, there were challenges presented by autonomous flight or driving in a city environment. Farms don’t have those issues. It’s easier to get a permit to fly a drone across a multi-acre farm with no other obstacles or tall buildings. It’s a lot safer for an autonomous self-driving, connected precision combine to work a field than a self-driving taxi navigate a busy city street with pedestrians and other vehicles. We are already seeing a number of connected technologies for tracking animals and crops. Drone scouting and spraying is already a reality.
We are in the midst of an exciting revolution in agtech. We are seeing new companies building smart sensors and smart equipment for ag that leverages multiple technologies that are all becoming affordable and attainable, fueled by AI, AR, VR, robotics, computer vision, GPS positioning, autonomy, IoT, edge-computing and more. These are powered by smaller, more powerful batteries and robust solar panels. 5G and Narrow Band IoT (NBIoT) are making it easier to transmit data from these smart devices. Satellites and GPS are becoming more precise so your self-driving weeder or herder won’t go astray. With all of that happening in the agtech world, we are all in and excited to help the emerging agtech innovators tell their stories and successfully scale their sales and marketing engines.