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AgTech FoodTech Incubation

Tesco Agri T-Jam 2020 open for entries for agri-tech start-ups

The Tesco Agri T-Jam has partnered with World Agri-Tech to offer seed and early-stage agri-tech innovators from around the world, the opportunity to work with the UK’s leading food retailer and its supply chain partners. Entries are invited until JULY 28 from agri-tech start-ups with innovative breakthrough technologies and solutions to improve supply chain efficiency and sustainability.

Following an in-depth selection process by the Agri T-Jam judging committee, ten finalists will be revealed during the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit on September 15. At least one start-up will be selected for fast-track introductions and mentoring by the Tesco agriculture team and its supplier network.

“At Tesco, our ambition is to find new products, ideas and technologies that will help us serve our customers, colleagues and communities even better in the future. We want to work with people who have new ideas to help enhance what we do, or how we do things.”

Natalie Smith, Head of Agriculture at Tesco

Tesco is looking for technologies in the following priority areas:

  1. Predictive Farming
  2. Crop Specific Solutions, Shelf Life & Storage
  3. Improving Soil Health & Resilience
  4. Water Quality Analysis & Irrigation
  5. Robotics, Automation & Sensor Technology
  6. Protecting & Supporting Biodiversity
  7. Livestock: Animal Health & Welfare
  8. Supply Chain Efficiency & Waste Reduction
  9. Indoor & Vertical Farming
  10. Operating Remotely

The 2020 Tesco Agri T-Jam Final will be held as a virtual event on Monday October 19 with the judging commitee, supply chain partners and Tesco colleagues. Each finalist will then present again in a showcase webinar promoted to the World Agri-Tech global network, before the winner is revealed.

Roboscientific, a Cambridge-based start-up which uses sensors, ‘Electronic nose’ to detect contamination in agricultural produce was the winner of Tesco TJam Innovation Award for Agriculture 2019. It uses an array of Volatile Organic Compounds that individually respond to the vapours producing a unique response pattern for each separate type of compound or mix of compounds. The technology was at the point of commercialisation for its automatic early disease detection system for growing broiler poultry and early alerts of spoilage in stored potato and onion crops.

The 2018 winner was ImpactVision, a machine learning company, applying hyper-spectral imaging technology to food supply chains to deliver consistent food quality, generate premium products and reduce supply chain waste. The information generated from its technology allows stakeholders across food supply chains to assess product quality in real-time, making decisions that help to achieve superior product consistency, deliver premium quality and prevent supply chain waste

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AgTech Machine Learning

AI-driven agritech startup, Connecterra, raised €7.8 million to make the dairy industry more productive

Dutch startup Connecterra has secured €7.8 million ($8.75 million) in a Series B funding round from a group of investors including ADM Capital, Kersia, Pymwymic, Breed Reply and Sistema_VC. Connecterra, founded in 2014, aims to empower animal farmers of all sizes to increase productivity, while reducing the substantial impact that animal agriculture has on our planet.

Connecterra is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and operates in 16 countries. The €7.8 million raised is the biggest ever series B funding round completed by a Dutch AgTech company active in farm animal technology. 

Connecterra’s Intelligent Dairy Farmers Assistant “Ida” is an artificial intelligence-powered service that uses data collected from dairy cows to offer meaningful insights and recommendations. With the funds the startup Connecterra will accelerate the growth of its predictive AI platform, ‘Ida’. So far ‘Ida’ has evolved from sensor tech to a full-stack technology and AI platform, combining proprietary sensor hardware, animal data, third-party enterprise data, and machine-learning algorithms.

“Empowering farmers and the industry with a connected, AI driven platform is a necessity for the future of food production. The COVID-19 outbreak has brought into sharp focus the weaknesses in our food system that is disconnected and faces threats from climate change and a dwindling labor workforce. With the support of our top-class investors, customers and partners, we are well positioned to democratize access to our technology to millions of farmers across the globe.”

Yasir Khokhar, CEO of Connecterra

Connecterra has seen adoption of the Ida platform by industry giants such as Danone, Bayer and food safety expert Kersia. The technology is being used to create sustainable farming models that have eliminated the use of hormones, reduced antibiotic usage by up to 50%, and increased farm efficiency. The platform is also part of the Farming for Generations (F4G) consortium led by Danone, aimed at implementing regenerative agriculture practices.

The latest funding will equip Connecterra with the funding needed to grow its presence in dairy leading regions such as Europe, North America and New Zealand and further scale out and develop the AI models and technology behind Ida.

Read more at Connecterra

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AgTech Machine Learning

CSIRO and AgTech company Goanna Ag have announced a partnership to maximise the use of irrigation water

Australia’s national science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and agtech company Goanna Ag have announced a partnership that will see sensors and analytics combined to maximise every drop of irrigation water used to grow crops. Under the partnership, Goanna Ag will incorporate WaterWise, a CSIRO-developed technology, into its existing GoField irrigation management system.

Goanna Ag, formed in July 2018, is an Australian AgTech company delivering the next generation of smart farming practices. Through low cost, low power, long range sensors and networks, they work with growers to provide data-driven solutions that simplify farm resource management and improve water-use efficiency.

For Goanna Ag and its customers, being involved in this innovation means they can access brand-new, Australian-made, science-based technology and incorporate it into their existing GoField system. Being able to predict when to irrigate will allow our clients – farmers – to plan based on what the plant needs.

Alicia Garden, CEO, Goanna Ag

The WaterWise system measure the canopy temperature of crops every 15 minutes. The field data, in sync with the weather forecast is then processed using CSIRO’s unique algorithm to predict the crop’s water requirements for the next seven days. WaterWise team leader Dr Rose Brodrick explains that predicting the future is the real breakthrough science. It means for the first time, growers can see the water stress of their crops at any point and predict their future water needs.

“Just like humans, plants have an optimum temperature. When things are normal it’s easier to predict when a plant will need water. But when conditions change — like with a new crop, a new field, or unusually hot or cold weather forecasted — farmers want backup with their decision making.”

WaterWise team leader Dr Rose Brodrick

The next steps for WaterWise are to take it from in-field based canopy sensors to drones or satellites. Goanna Ag expects the system incorporating WaterWise will be commercially available in time for the 2020 summer cropping season.

Read more at CSIRO

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AgTech Investments

UK based agtech firm secures £750,000 equity investment

Agtech venture Agxio has secured a £750,000 equity to support its ambitious growth plans. The £750,000 equity investment comes from a mix of existing investors and the Development Bank of Wales alongside match funding from new professional investors.

“We are delighted to be working with the Development Bank of Wales who were always our preferred key strategic partner for the company and our plans in Wales. Wales is a world leader in both farming and technology. We aim to bridge both of those skills to create innovation in the food supply chain both domestically and internationally.”

Agxio chief executive and co-founder, Dr Stephen Christie

Backed by a world-class team of data scientists, engineers, domain specialists, technologists and commercial entrepreneurs, Agxio manages two flagship platforms: Apollo & Centaur.

  • Apollo operates beyond-human-scale performance, enabling the robotic platform to evaluate critical data to produce predictive models to solve real world problems. It then optimises these to look for patterns or configurations of parameters that human modellers may not even consider or have the patience to develop.
  • Agxio’s Centaur incorporate artificial intelligence and the latest advances in data and agricultural science to encode and enable industry best practice for all practitioners within agriculture. Innovation, driven by forward thinking and rigorous, scientifically principled activity connects all producers and suppliers in one ecosystem.

Life sciences, biotech and agricultural industries have been dramatically transformed through the availability of large volumes of data through IoT innovation and advances in technologies. Through the use of Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Digital Innovation, we deliver actionable insights into these industries. We automate the data scientist and enable use cases in any complex data rich environment to deliver optimised machine learning solutions.

Agxio Industry Focus

The development bank’s equity investment from the Wales Technology Seed Fund will give them the potential to harvest the vast benefits that machine learning and data science can bring.

Read more at BusinessLive

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AgTech Investments

Israeli agtech startup Saturas has raised $3 million in Series B funding

Israeli precision irrigation system company Saturas has introduced the completion of first part of a Series B funding round of $3 million. The financing round was from former investors Gefen Capital and Hubei Forbon Technology alongside a new investor, the Trendlines Agrifood Fund.

“We believe that Saturas’ unique technology for measuring stem water potential is poised to change the way farmers manage their irrigation – providing a highly accurate method to reduce water use, at the same time as improving the quality of fruit. Our investment represents the fund’s commitment to investing in technologies that address food and agricultural production in a sustainable way, using innovative knowledge and a team with proven capabilities. Saturas checks all those boxes.”

Trendlines Agrifood Fund CEO Nitza Kardish

Saturas develops a Decision Support System (DSS) based on miniature Stem Water Potential (SWP) sensor that is embedded into the trunks of trees, vines, and plants. As part of an automatic irrigation system, the Saturas sensor provides accurate information for optimized irrigation in order to reduce water consumption and increase fruit production and quality.

“Following our expansion of sales and operations in the US through our California-based subsidiary, and in Europe, South America and China, this investment enables further market and sales expansion, and development of our production capabilities. We are working to complete the full funding round by the end of the year.”

Saturas CEO Anat Halgoa

Stem Water Potential (SWP) is a scientifically recognized, highly accurate parameter, for determining water status in crops. Saturas’ Stem Water Potential (SWP) sensing system automatically collects accurate data using a minimal number of sensors per hectare (1 – 2 sensors). It transmits the processed data to the central automated irrigation control system.

The technology tailors irrigation to real-time water needs of the crop, resulting in more efficient water use and increased yields, fruit size and sugar content (e.g., vineyards). Embedding the sensor into the trunk eliminates the common problem of damage to sensors placed in the soil or on the tree/vine. With direct and reliable information on crop water status, farmers can save water and increase yields.

Read more at Globes

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AgTech Intellectual Property Rights

How will we support data exchanges in agriculture?

As agriculture becomes increasingly digital and mobile via increasing use of consumer devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.), it is important to understand how data is being collected, interpreted, and utilized. Moreover, data sharing is going to be fundamental to deriving value from data analytics in agriculture. The absence of legal and regulatory frameworks around the collection, sharing and use of agricultural data contributes to the range of challenges currently being faced by farmers considering adoption of smart farming technologies.

Agri data is neither recognised under traditional type of property (land, building, good and animals) nor any traditional intellectual property (patent, trademark and copyright). Still many existing laws potentially influence the ownership, control of and access to data. For example, legal liability of an autonomous tractor drive over someone else’s scarecrow. Is the liable party in such a case the software coders, the owner of the tractor, the manufacturer of the tractor, all of these parties jointly and severably, or someone else entirely?

This issue might be further complicated and differentiated by the fact that companies like John Deere, claim that the farmers that operate their tractors do not actually own the software that they are running on, nor do they have the right to alter or fix any code in their tractors. But runaway vehicles are not the only concern that farmers have with their autonomous tractors. The robots designed to collect and analyze millions of data points that relate to animal welfare, soil quality, crop quality, and the output or utilization of seed types are often part of the internet-of-things environment.

As on date, the best solution for managing of agri data seems to be, “individual contract agreements to treat agri data as a protected trade secret”. Contract Agreement could include the following 10 points to make sure that the agreement is fool-proof.

  1. Consent: Collection, access and use of farm data should include consent of the farmer with proper signed (or digital) agreement. 
  2. Notification: Farmers must be notified for the collected data with proper details about it’s usage.
  3. Complaint Redressal: Proper complaint redressal mechanism with full transparency.
  4. Features: Defining the availability of services and features when the farmer make choices for opt-in and opt-out.
  5. Portability: Data portability and data retrieval for storage and usage in other systems.
  6. Confidentiality: A clause for not sharing or disclosing the farm data with a third party in any matter that is inconsistent with the contract agreement.
  7. Retrieval: Farmer should have the authority to discontinue the services and collection of data. Services discontinuation should be supported with an option of retrieval and secured destruction of collected data.
  8. Misuse protection: Prohibition of data for anti-competitive activities like speculation in commodity markets based on inputs from the farm data.
  9. Safeguards: Clearly define liability and security safeguards for loss or unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification and disclosure. 
  10. Policy: Notice and response policy for agreement breach.

All the stakeholders in AgTech sector should ensure that Farmers have the opportunity to easily extract their agricultural datasets from one device to another so that they can migrate to a different system, potentially incompatible with the one they are currently using.

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AgTech Investments

Greeneye Technology, an Israeli AgTech startup closed a seed funding round of $7 million

Greeneye Technology, a leading AgTech company with a focus in precision agriculture, announced that it closed a seed funding round of $7 million, led by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and participation from Syngenta Ventures, 2B Angels, One Way venture, Panache Ventures Techstars, and Hyperplane Venture Capital.

The company is based in Tel-Aviv, Israel and was established in 2017. The founders have been working closely as a team since 2004, after serving together in the Israeli Special Air Force Unit. Greeneye provides an alternative and sustainable solution for the current crop protection practice in order to meet the globally growing demand for food, while increasing the profitability and productivity for farmers.

We are thrilled to have JVP an international leading VC fund and Syngenta as a strategic and industry expert investors to help fuel Greeneye’s growth. Both our investors share with us the understanding that the way farmers spray chemicals in agriculture is about to be massively disrupted to a more efficient and sustainable manner.

Nadav Bocher, Co-Founder and CEO, Greeneye Technology

Greeneye utilizes artificial intelligence and deep learning technology to revolutionize the pest control process in agriculture, transitioning from the current practice of broadcast and wasteful spraying of pesticides to precise spraying in real-time. Greeneye’s proprietary selective spraying (SPP) system turns every sprayer into a smart machine with seamless integration, and saves up to 90% of the chemical cost.

Greeneye’s technology maps an entire field with cameras at a plant level resolution, offering a robust scouting solution for detecting and killing weeds. Currently, farmers worldwide spray their fields uniformly without distinguishing between crops, soil, and weeds.

Read more at PR Newswire

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AgTech FoodTech

Attractive opportunities in Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture Market

Agriculture and farming is one of the oldest and most important professions in the world. Humanity has come a long way over the millennia in how we farm and grow crops with the introduction of various technologies. By 2050, the planet’s population is likely to rise to 9.7 billion, a rise of 2 billion from now. Along with increase in population, there is a substantial increase in the lifestyle. Those people will not only need to eat, they will want to eat better than people do now, because of higher incomes. However, only 4% additional land will come under cultivation by then.

In this context, use of latest technological solutions to make farming more efficient, remains one of the greatest imperatives. Farming is becoming a branch of matrix algebra. Farm operations involve a set of variables, such as the weather, soil’s moisture levels and nutrient content, competition to crops from weeds, threats to their health from pests and diseases, and the costs of taking action to deal with these things. If the algebra is done correctly, the yield gets optimised resulting in maximization of profit.

Agriculture is seeing rapid adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) both in terms of agricultural products and in-field farming techniques. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) sees a lot of direct application across sectors, it can also bring a paradigm shift in how we see farming today. The industry is turning to AI technologies to help yield healthier crops, control pests, monitor soil and growing conditions, organize data for farmers, help with workload, and improve a wide range of agriculture-related tasks in the entire food supply chain.

The overall AI in agriculture market is projected to grow from an estimated USD 1.0 billion in 2020 to USD 4.0 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 25.5% between 2020 and 2026. The market growth is propelled by the increasing implementation of data generation through sensors and aerial images for crops, increasing crop productivity through deep-learning technology, and government support for the adoption of modern agricultural techniques.

Markets and Markets

Recent Developments in AI in Agriculture include:

  1. South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics raised US$5.5 million in funding from Naspers Foundry. Cape Town-based Aerobotics, uses aerial imagery from drones and satellites, and blends them with machine learning algorithms. The startup’s cloud-based application Aeroview provides farmers with insights, scout mapping and other tools to mitigate damage to tree and vine crops from pest and disease.
  2. Insurance Australia Group has bought a multimillion-dollar stake in Digital Agriculture Services. Digital Agriculture Services is a rural technology company based in Melbourne. The company is applying machine learning and AI to develop rural data-powered solutions that transform the way rural assets are assessed, valued and monitored.
  3. Yanmar R&D Europe, with its European research facility based in Florence, Italy, focuses on a variety of field-based studies to bring added value to the agriculture industry. This include the two-year, four-million Euros ‘SMASH’ (Smart Machine for Agricultural Solutions Hightech) project being carried out in cooperation with 10 technology partners to develop a mobile agricultural ‘eco-system’ to monitor, analyse and manage agricultural crops.

Some of the companies active in AI in agriculture includes International Business Machines Corp., Deere & Company, Microsoft Corporation, Farmers Edge Inc., The Climate Corporation, Descartes Labs, Inc., AgEagle Aerial Systems, aWhere Inc., Gamaya Inc., Precision Hawk Inc., Granular, Inc., Prospera Technologies, Cainthus Corporation, Taranis, Resson Inc., FarmBot Inc., Connecterra B.V., Vision Robotics Corporation, Harvest Croo, LLC, Autonomous Tractor Corporation, Trace Genomics, Inc., VineView, CropX Inc., Tule Technologies Inc., Blue River technology, FarmBot and PEAT GmbH .

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AgTech Investments

South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics raised US$5.5 million in funding from Naspers Foundry

Cape Town-based Aerobotics, uses aerial imagery from drones and satellites, and blends them with machine learning algorithms. This helps in early problem detection and offer personalised solutions to tree and wine farmers and optimise crop performance. The startup’s cloud-based application Aeroview provides farmers with insights, scout mapping and other tools to mitigate damage to tree and vine crops from pest and disease.

Food security was of paramount importance, and the Aerobotics platform provided a positive contribution towards helping to sustain it. This importance has been highlighted further in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with agriculture considered globally as critical infrastructure

Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, South Africa CEO at Naspers

Aerobotics uses drone flights to track tree health and size, using multispectral, high resolution drone imagery. This helps in identification of areas needing attention by a real time comparison with historical satellite health data, and make data driven decisions on the farm, using AI-based analytics platform. Aerobotics provide tools to make actionable decisions on the farm for

  • Orchard Management
  • Problem Tree Identification
  • Pest and Disease Management
  • Yield Management

Aerobotics has demonstrated success in the ability to collect and analyse tree and fruit-level information, which are critical to the agricultural industry. The services are very relevant to commercial-scale farmers and crop insurance companies who require accurate tree-level information about their clients.

Read more at Disrupt Africa.

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AgTech Investments

Insurance Australia Group has bought a multimillion-dollar stake in Digital Agriculture Services

Insurance Australia Group Limited (IAG) is the largest general insurance company in Australia and New Zealand. The Group’s businesses underwrite almost $12 billion of premium per annum, selling insurance under many leading brands. IAG, Australia’s largest general insurer, made the investment in Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) through its $75 million venture capital fund Firemark Ventures.

In April, Firemark Ventures also bought a stake in US start-up Arturo, which applies similar methods as those used by DAS – aerial imaging, AI, data analytics – to an urban setting, assessing risks to individual residential and commercial properties.

Digital Agriculture Services is a rural technology company based in Melbourne. The company was established in partnership with CSIRO, Australia’s national science and research agency, in 2017, with a mission to deliver reliable rural intelligence. The company is applying machine learning and AI to develop rural data-powered solutions that transform the way rural assets are assessed, valued and monitored.

Despite the importance of food and agriculture to our economy, rural data is patchy and fragmented; inaccessible or unintelligible; or simply not connected in a way that’s useful. Every day, business, policy makers and farmers are making decisions without reliable rural data or analytics. This lack of data not only means billions in decisions are being based on inaccurate, unreliable or incomplete data – it means agriculture’s risk profile is far higher than it should be.

Problem statement – DAS

DAS’ founders believe that by providing the most reliable rural intelligence possible, we can give today’s decision makers the data they need to make more informed decisions. Decisions that build competitive advantage, wealth and prosperity for all.

Read more at Financial Review