In the past 12 months since moving to Silicon Valley, I have been hearing the word “AgTech” quite a bit. Initially, my reaction was, “just what we need, another new buzz word.” But I believe this trend is a noble one that will likely continue to be around for a long time to come. Technology in the agriculture space, I believe, is an important one due to the real world problems that we are facing. The silver lining here, at least for me, is that this is a great example of where technology is being used to benefit humankind and the planet.
Recently I attended a talk about AgTech hosted by Keizai Silicon Valley. At this talk, 3 start-ups talked about their products and shared ideas about how we can address some of the real world problems in the food industry. Here are short snippets about each of the start-ups:
As they proclaim during the talk, this small start-up has the bold aspiration to banish standing in line—for good—with their AI check-out technology platform. This solution is already being deployed by some retailers such as Amazon Go.
Provides retailers with a smart vending kiosk solution that allows them to offer fresh food, including perishable items in a vending machine.
Provides a fast gourmet restaurant in a box. This service can be set up in a factory, mall, or in a company’s office. Regardless of setting, end-users can enjoy quality gourmet ramen in less than 45 seconds.
Some of the key take-aways that I captured from this talk include the following:
There is a seismic shift happening at retail — consumer demand is driving by convenience more than any thing.
Today’s vending machines are not designed for fresh foods which also represents a real business opportunity for the AgTech industry.
We may need an additional 70% more food to feed 10 billion people by the year 2050.
A popular word in the industry has become “sustainable food” The mindset here is increasing the resiliency, productivity, and profitability of food.
Certainly AgTech is an area that I am not knowledgable about but it is precisely that reason why I am glad that I went to this talk. One key point this talk reinforced is that we all have a role in doing the right things now to ensure our food supply is used responsibly. Rather than focusing on increasing food production — due to the 4th point above — we should first ensure we are maximizing what we produce today by minimizing waste. I believe that this sentiment was shared by all of the panelists at this talk.
So, if you have not heard about AgTech, well now you know. This will likely be around for a long time to come and companies that truly invest in solving food sustainability will benefit in result (and, just maybe, mankind, too).