AgTech is the new word on investors' lips - why?
A warm bread roll fresh from the oven, char-grilled vegetables hot off the BBQ, a comforting home-cooked roast.
Whichever meal last delighted your taste buds, the ingredients may not have been available if not for technological developments in agriculture.
From OX & cart to SaaS analytics
But what is AgTech?
It's such a new term that, at time of writing, Wikipedia doesn't have a definition - so we developed one:
AgTech - technology that reinvents or refines an agricultural process
Innovations in vertical farming, machine learning, and data science provide a glimpse into how our food might begin to be produced by as early as 2020.
These technologies assist growers in everything from predicting weather patterns, assessing the best time to sow, monitor crop or herd performance, decrease disease, and reduce business spend.
The majority of European startups are repurposing these existing technologies, but, as you will see from Valuer.ai's list below, there are some exciting companies totally reimagining the future of food production.
But why should you care about AgTech? That’s what farmers do, right?
Top EU startups in AgTech - 2019
With the case for AgTech firmly made, we’ve curated a list of the top European AgTech startups utilizing data to ensure the future of food production is in the safety of technologically-equipped growers hands.
A farmers one-stop-shop for digitization in 2019. This mobile farm management system or ‘field diary’ integrates an app, the web, and GPS, to provide data for production analysis, cost management, and legal documentation.
Farmers have a reliable database for operational decision-making. Developed by a group of founders with a background in Agriculture themselves, this is the startup to watch.
Founders: Andreas Prankl & Johann Prankl
This startup is helping farmers make data-driven business decisions. By utilising AI, IoT, deep learning models, and satellite imagery, OneSoil enables farmers to monitor crop development, plan future sow areas, increase yield, and use prediction models to forward plan.
Founded by a data scientist, product designer, web developer, and project manager, the founders have applied their trade to the agricultural world to produce an android app fit for the 21st century farmer.
Founders: Sasha Yakovlev, Usevalad Henin, Viacheslav Mazai
Using tech to produce crop protection products, this Belgian startup is on a mission to help cities become greener.
They focus on the discovery of effective biocontrols to tackle pests, diseases and use a technological platform to scale. Their first product is expected to enter the US market in 2022.
Founders: Peter Verheesen, Marnix Peferoen
A much-needed startup to increase the population of these little pollinators, Pollenity (previously BeeSmart Technologies) is a Company on the right track. Honeybee’s health and population has been on the decline in recent decades.
Using hi-tech sensor technology and biology-based algorithms, Pollenity can not only decrease operating costs for beekeepers, they can help to assess colony health so apiarists can take precautionary measures before they’re needed.
Founders: Ivan Kanev, Sergey Petrov
FarmBackup can boast a first! They were the first to create a digital marketplace for on-demand farming. They launched in their home country, Denmark, in 2015. In 2017 they expanded beyond the pond to the UK, and then to New Zealand in 2018.
They received a hefty seed investment in the end of 2018 of one million Euro. In 2019 they expanded their business model beyond supply and demand to task management, data collection, and invoicing.
Founders: Anders Knudsen, Søren Knudsen
The idea came from a farmer fed up with spending more time on farm administration than with his family and was developed with the help of an experienced software developer. The platform helps growers navigate the heavy administration and large fines for mistakes that come with running a farm.
With a couple of clicks, farmers are warned of any potential legislative violations while gathering useful data. This is specifically for grain farming and the business has 70% of the Estonian market in six months. Now in five countries, this is a startup that looks to be on track for exponential growth.
Founders: Robin Saluoks, Stenver Jerkku
Sencrop provide an in-field, data-based platform with connected rain and wind speed gauges for more precise, efficient, and eco-friendly agriculture.
Farmers are empowered to make better decisions in their daily agricultural activities. Sencrop won an award for its high-precision agro-meteorological station and platform at the 2017 SIMA Innovation Awards ceremony.
Founders: Martin Ducroquet, Michael Brunlaux
InFarm is an on-demand farming services to provide urban communities with fresh, nutritious produce, by distributing smart vertical farms throughout the city, directly where people live and eat. Their autonomous, modular farming units can be stacked to meet any space or demand, whether that be a restaurant, supermarket or even in a warehouse.
Each hydroponic farm is monitored and controlled through their robust central farming platform that can adjust the growing environment to ensure each plant gets the best conditions to thrive.
Founders: Erez Galonska, Guy Galonska, Osnat Michaeli
Two farmers and a team of systems engineers developed an Artificial Intelligence based solution of IoT and software platform that connects a farmer to his land, anywhere in the world. Augmenta’s “Field Analyzer” can be attached to any tractor and can determine the amount of fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides that the farm needs to reach its full potential, all in real-time.
Also capable of controlling agricultural machinery in real-time, applying the optimal amount of chemicals automatically. Augmenta’s field-viewer web platform can be used to observe the progression of the field through visual data analytics which informs their decision making.
Founders: George Varvarelis, Dimitris Evangelopoulos
ALZAGRO manufactures a smart and reliable grain sampling drone that provides information about the grains' quality. The drone flies over the grain and gets numerous samples. Cropler tells you the amount of grain you are about to sample and designs the sampling route by itself.
The built-in NIR quality check gives you immediate results on the grain's quality. After the quality is analyzed, the software creates the quality map of your grain pile
Founders: Alfred Rombolotto, Zalan Turi
Jurt Hydroponics and sister company, Nordic Wasabi, are two Icelandic startups founded by engineers. Their goal is to combine highly technological elements of agriculture with the clean Icelandic environment to grow difficult crops, such as Wasabi.
They focus on hydroponic technology, and with their clean mountain stream water, renewable hydroelectric power and geothermal heating they have been very successful in their Wasabi endeavours!
Founders: Johan Sindri Hansen, Ragnar Atli Tómasson
Home of the olive tree, this Italian startup has developed a precision farming service that focuses on the preservation of olive trees.
Based on a system of algorithms, the company is able to prevent diseases and to optimize cultivation processes such as irrigation and fertilization. The goal is to improve both the duration of the olive trees life and the producer's work.
Founders: Damiano Angelici, Giovanni Di Mambro
The intelligent, dairy farmers assistant, Connecterra’s “Ida” product is an AI software that uses machine learning to help manage dairy cows. The app gives the user the ability to track the management of individual cows, with information such as milk yield and management of antibiotic plans and biological cycles.
Ida claims farmers using the app have experienced a 50% drop in antibiotic use, which can only be a good thing for the cows and the humans consuming their products.
Founders: Saad Ansari, Yasir Khokhar
Nofence is a virtual fencing system for livestock made of a solar-powered GPS collar and a digital map. When an animal crosses the boundary the collar starts beeping, and a small electrical current is emitted if the animal carries on in the same direction. The initial training phase is short as the animal quickly learn not to go beyond the virtual boundary.
Pastures can easily be defined by a few clicks on a tablet/smartphone. The herd is safely fenced and easily monitored, with notifications being sent if anything out of the ordinary happens. Uncultivated land can then be utilized for varied and healthy pasture making it possible to produce more food on less land. Animals don’t get trapped in poorly maintained fencing so it helps the environment.
Founders: Erik Harstad, Magnus Gabrielsen, Oscar Hovde Berntsen
An app software and combined IoT device to help monitor crop’s water needs, establish optimal growing conditions, and prevent risk factors such as pests, diseases and fungi. A multi-award winning business, this is one to watch.
Founders: Bruno Fonseca, Bruno Rodrigues
A fully controlled automated environment, iFarm has developed innovative technology to grow salad, berries, and vegetables year-round. It is quickly-assembled, has a set of unified suppliers for seeds, fertilizers and electronics. Connected to the cloud, it is a comprehensive system to control growth.
iFarm makes it possible for urban crop growing with downloadable recipes, and is low cost as the growing environment requires significantly less electricity, water, and fertilizer than conventional growing methods.
Founders: Alexander Lyskovsky, Maxim Chizhov
Trapview is world’s leading automated pest monitoring and forecasting platform. Trapview platform consists of automated insect traps, proprietary AI-based algorithms analyzing the data collected by automated traps and Trapview user applications serving highly advanced and valuable information to crop protection decision-makers.
The complete Trapview solution is enabling clients to grow food more sustainably, with lower costs and less crop damage.
Founders: Matej Stefancic, Dejan Jeric, Mitja Strojansek
This visual farm management platform is powered by satellites, sensors and machine learning for a more sustainable growing experience.
In 12 countries worldwide and with a large team of experts, this startup has the experience and momentum to go far.
Founders: Lucia Iborra, Mercedes Iborra
One of Europe’s largest vertical farms, Grönska, develops technology based on the use of LED lighting and hydroponic watering systems.
Vertical farming means farmers can grow food indoors, locally, and all year round. It is highly sustainable in comparison with imported food and can enable self-sufficiency.
Founders: Natalie de Brun, Petter Olsson, Robin Lee
Gamaya focusses on systematic mapping of farmland to utilize diagnostics - increasing efficiency and sustainability of large industrial farming as well as the productivity of smaller-scale farms. Satellite and drone images then have an AI modeling system layered over it to produce detailed Phenology and Physiological crop traits.
This means farmers can characterize specific agronomic issues including nutrient deficiencies, pest and weed infestations and decide on specific crop treatments such as chemical and fertilizers to reduce their impact on the environment.
Founders: Dragos Constantin, Igor Ivanov, Yosef Akhtman
Wefarm connects small-scale farmers to each other to solve problems, share ideas and innovate. Using machine learning technology, they can communicate online, or via SMS.
It’s a digital Sunday market square where farmers can share information in order to produce higher yields, tackle the effects of climate unpredictability, source the best materials and diversify their crop offerings.
Founders: Kenny Ewan
Click on the map below to see where the best AgTech startups are located.
From farm to table
When we say farmers, this might eventually mean YOU. With a trend towards decentralizing the food industry, it has never been easier to pop a hydroponic lightbox on your shelf and grow your own tomatoes in your living room.
There is also a rise in distribution platforms to help farmers sell excess produce which is just as important in the quest to maximize crop yields while reducing food waste.
One example is Too Good To Go, the European startup leading the way in this area, cutting out the middle man for farmers so they can sell excess produce directly to you without needing a shopfront.
This makes food cheaper for you!
If you think the innovation in Europe is cool, wait until you check out what’s happening in the US, where their market share in AgTech is ten times the size of Europe’s.
Elon Musk’s brother?
That’s right, even Kimball Musk is getting involved. He has developed the farm of the future, Square Roots.
His team grows fresh herbs inside shipping containers, gives consumers total transparency into the production of their goods, and has just announced a partnership with Gordon Food Service to introduce their produce across the US.
But what if AgTech didn't exist?
Imagine a world without wine
Ever been to South America? Chilean wine is delicious - that’s because they use the original French grape variety, brought over by French explorers and planted throughout the region.
Meanwhile, a little while later back in France, a bacteria-infected the very same variety causing it’s extinction, so a new cross-over strain had to be developed for bacteria resistance. It grew well, but it had a different flavor.
France’s key export industry was nearly wiped out because of one bacteria, and we can only imagine that they were as miserable about their loss of Vin-Rouge as they were about their income.
There’s no happy ending to this story, they never got the original variety back, although they did try reintroducing Chilean grapes back into France, but with a little success.
Perhaps if they’d had access to the Swiss developed Gamaya App which assesses the probability of crop diseases, this could have been prevented. But, *hot tip* if you want a traditional French wine - buy a bottle from Chile.
Going without a glass of your favorite vino might be upsetting, but the failure of a more heavily relied upon crop source can be deadly.
The great famine
In 1845, The Great Famine of Ireland caused mass starvation that led to the death of one million people. A million more emigrated, causing Ireland’s population to fall by a massive 20-25%.
What caused the famine? A microorganism that infected Ireland’s main food source, the potato.
Imagine what would happen if history repeated itself with wheat, cereal, or corn.
Well, it already is.
Too wet to sow
In early 2019, severe weather meant American farmers couldn’t sow their corn or soybean seeds. Now, only 50% and 29%, respectively, are in the ground, compared with their usual five-year average of 90% and 66%.
This indicates a dramatic crop reduction at harvest in late 2019. Other farmers declared a total crop loss and in Oklahoma, every county has been plunged into a state of emergency.
What can be done?
Risk management 101 - diversify
One solution is to diversify the crop gene pool. Far from ideal for the organic veggie-lover, but a popular option in current farming practices, are genetic modifications, a technique designed to help diversify crops so one disease can't wipe out a whole species. Perhaps one of the most advanced technologies we have in our home is the humble tomato sitting in our fridge?
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, funded by Norway, holds the world’s most diverse range of food crop seeds, designed to keep one of every plant safe for the future populations.
Due to severe weather conditions, the building suffered a severe water leak. It is due for a $4.4 million upgrade, bringing total construction cost to $9 million. This investment into it's architectural structure alone shows just how valuable those seeds are.
The climate catastrophe
Crops are failing. In both cases, Oklahoma and the flooding of the Svalbard Seed Vault, unpredictable weather patterns have made it difficult for growers to predict yields and for architects to design structures to combat an increasingly hostile environment.
The climate catastrophe facing the world means continual developments in AgTech have never been more important.
Those living in the Western world are privileged to exist in a time and environment where famine is not a daily concern, but believing it to be an issue for the history books would be a big mistake.
We’ve seen that food shortages come about rapidly, without warning, whether through a man-made catastrophe or natural disaster. Recently, in North America, unpredictable weather patterns have been the cause of multiple crop failures.
The climate disaster facing us today means developments in AgTech have never been more important in preventing another deadly famine.
This is evidenced by the growth of investment in the AgTech Startup industry. In 2018, worldwide, these companies have commanded funding totaling $16.9 billion, and these numbers are only growing.
In Europe, on average, there are only two AgTech startups per country. The majority are in France, Germany, and the UK. In some cases there are none at all - so this is a relatively untapped market, which, if we take the US as an example, is set to boom.
Now is a great opportunity for investors to get in early on European AgTech Startups and drive the technological growth needed to sustain the future population.
It's time to put our money where our mouth is.