Agro startups: technology and innovation also in the countryside

Within agribusiness, get to know the startups that have been standing out the most

41% of Brazilian territory is dedicated to the agricultural market. That number alone justifies why this sector couldn’t go alone. Giving an overview, the volume of investments in agtechs -- technology-based companies in agribusiness -- in Brazil reached $200 million in 2022. The value represents a 100% increase compared to the total investment recorded in 2021, when $109 million was allocated to the high-risk market.

Within these scenarios, the startups that have been standing out the most are in the agricultural sector, named as agtech (agricultural technology) and foodtech (food science technology). The terms emerged in 2017 to define the innovation that occurs throughout the entire food supply journey -- from the farm to the consumer’s plate. Agribusiness is a complex industry, which makes changes challenging as it involves a wide range of processes, operations, and functions as food goes from the farm to the table. However, this creates many opportunities for technologists to disrupt the sector and create efficiencies with agri-food technology at various points in the supply chain. Here are some digital technologies that are transforming agriculture:

- Robotics The new generations of rural workers are replacing arduous tasks or those requiring physical effort with technology -- they also benefit from continuous process improvement and automation. Robotics in agriculture represents a global market of over USD 5 billion (BRL 24.86 billion) and is expected to double in the next five years.

- Internet of Things (IoT) and Sensors The ability to track products and live animals, detect health problems, and assess the environment, soil, and other climate/sustainability challenges are the main reasons for implementing IoT in this sector. This technology includes the context of API -- Application Programming Interface --, where software interfaces with other solutions, with one providing information and services that can be used by the other. Increasingly, these integrations are necessary for productions to achieve the expected results.

- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Many careers in food and agriculture depend on learning by doing, rather than explicit knowledge transfer. This creates real challenges such as avoiding human errors, misunderstandings, and cognitive biases. AI models have come to help make predictions or forecasts based on past data, unlike BI (Business Intelligence) management reports that only describe past situations. AI may seem like a threat to agribusiness consultants and experts, but it is necessary to evaluate that professions will likely not be eliminated but will have new functions -- technical knowledge of these professionals will be required to interpret accurate AI data.

- 3D Printing The ability of 3D printers to repair machinery, print food, or even create prosthetics for genetically improved animals offers a clear advantage for farms worldwide, generating savings and more agile solutions.

- Drones The ability of drones to go where humans cannot and see things that are not easily observed from the ground provides real insights into pest protection, fertilizer and herbicide application, irrigation, and harvest timing.

- Virtual Reality (VR) The ability of VR to teach agricultural science students about the internal workings of animals (without vivisection) and how plants grow -- or simply being able to visit farms -- is an extraordinary opportunity for students and consumers to engage with livestock and crops, as well as understand every detail of a crop’s journey.

- Cloud Connectivity Although 5G poses a challenge in this sector when farms still have no connectivity, governments understand that addressing connectivity is essential to revolutionize agriculture. Cloud-based computing services offer more flexible and cost-effective resources than those available with conventional server-based options or even edge computing. In addition, the DevOps culture is also necessary, as it brings together the human factor -- defining practices for integration between software development teams, operations (infrastructure or sysadmin), and involved support (such as quality control) -- and the adoption of automated processes for rapid and secure production of applications and services.

All of this movement reveals that innovation in agriculture is expected to be driven even more rapidly, which should bring more efficiency and agility, as well as new products and industry trends. If you believe that agribusiness no longer wants to be the least digitalized industry in the world and need help applying digital transformation in the sector, look for us - act digital can be your partner in this business evolution challenge.

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