At a recent AgTech conference, a panelist said their new company was 1000 times better than the incumbents who were a major sponsor of the event. So what does this mean for the future of AgTech and farming?
Recently, Hectre’s Head of Sales, Kevin Park, and Product Owner, Hayden Freeth, joined a Callaghan Innovations market immersion tour to South Australia, where they toured orchards and agricultural research facilities, and attended the 2023 EvokeAG Conference in Adelaide, Australia.
Hectre’s Kevin Park (far left front row) and Hayden Freeth (wearing the Hectre cap in the back row) at EvokeAG 2023.
EvokeAG is an annual agricultural technology conference bringing together farmers, orchard owners, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists, and other stakeholders to discuss the latest innovations and trends in agriculture and how they can be applied to create a more sustainable and efficient food system.
During the market immersion tour, Kevin and Hayden gained valuable new insights into the challenges faced by fruit farmers at both local and global levels. The experience also prompted them to contemplate the current state of the Agtech industry, its possible future directions, and the role that Hectre plays in shaping its trajectory.
The Growing Disconnect
EvokeAG provided the opportunity to hear from experts in farming, technology, agribusiness, vertical farming, alternative food production, and precision agriculture. However, while there were many exciting discussions about the future of food and the role that technology will play in feeding a growing global population, there was a noticeable gap in the conversation across different speakers.
Despite the many discussions among entrepreneurs and venture capitalists about funding strategies and creating a better future, it appeared that many growers were struggling to know where to begin or found it easier to implement their own solutions rather than adopt new technologies.
That there is a gap between farmers and AgTech has become more noticeable, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. At EvokeAg 2023, for example, only around 15% of attendees were growers.
When the aforementioned panelist stated that their new company was 1000 times better than a major event sponsor, the disconnect between farmers and AgTech was again made more obvious. The panelist was a forward-thinking fruit grower that obviously felt frustrated by the lack of engagement from traditional companies and wanted to assert that there was a better way forward.
Don’t Forget the Smallholder Farmers
It’s essential that AgTech does not overlook the importance of the smallholder farmers who make up the backbone of the industry. According to the World Bank, these farmers produce about 80% of the world’s food, yet many of them face significant obstacles in accessing the resources and technology they need to thrive. For example, inadequate infrastructure, limited financing options, and a lack of awareness of the latest technology can all prevent smallholder farmers from achieving their full potential.
You may be surprised to learn that many farmers are only now learning about Starlink and how it and other mesh technologies can solve significant connectivity issues on the farm. Imagine a farmer in a remote area who has limited access to traditional internet connectivity but can now utilize satellite-based technology to connect with experts, access markets, and manage their operations more effectively.
Addressing these challenges and providing smallholder farmers with the necessary resources and knowledge is crucial to help them stay competitive and improve their livelihoods. Therefore, it’s vital for AgTech companies to focus on developing innovative solutions that are accessible and affordable to smallholder farmers. Doing so will enable smallholder farmers to leverage technology to improve their crop yields, quality, and profitability, ultimately leading to sustainable agriculture and food security.
Follow the Money
If we look at venture capital investments in AgTech, they seem to be skewed towards alternative food production. According to AgFunder’s 2021 Agri-FoodTech Investing Report, alternative proteins received over $3 billion in funding in 2020, while precision agriculture and farm management technology received just over $2 billion. While it’s clear that alternative food production has potential, it’s worth considering whether the entrepreneurs and VCs are overlooking the potential of existing agricultural systems in the rush to “create the future”.
Alternative Foods vs. Current Agricultural Practices
It’s understandable why venture capitalists may be hesitant to invest in improving existing agricultural processes. While agriculture has made some progress in reducing emissions and its carbon footprint, projections suggest that emissions will continue to rise in the coming decades.
Moreover, many farmers are too busy dealing with what’s in front of them, such as labor shortages, purchasing nets to prevent wind or frost damage, or battling with regulators on issues related to water supply. This raises the question of whether there is a genuine desire to introduce new technology.
Pen and paper work alright, and some long-serving staff often don’t want to learn how to use a tablet, so why put them in an uncomfortable situation? The fact that Starlink or the other satellite-based internet providers and mesh technologies haven’t been adopted to enable connected technology, doesn’t bode well for all the modern technologies that rely on connectivity across multiple farms.
How Does Hectre Figure Into It?
Creating tech that is clever but simple to use and implement has always been a priority for Hectre – it was one of its founding principles and remains top of mind. Judging by the feedback received from customers, such as you find in Hectre’s case studies, Hectre is succeeding with it.
Hectre also prides itself on being connected with its customers and working with them to find the solutions and applications that work for each customer’s unique needs. Here’s what Gilbert Plath from Washington Fruit and Produce had to say, “What sets Hectre apart is their genuine interest in understanding our needs and their exceptional support, which are both crucial when implementing new technology.”
Whatever the future holds for farming and agriculture, Hectre remains committed to its mission of empowering fruit growers and packers with the world’s simplest orchard technologies and delivering value to growers and packers, whether they be small family-owned businesses or large-scale enterprises.
Bridging the Gap
It’s important to remember that the future of farming depends on the willingness of both AgTech and farmers to make the necessary changes. Breaking down barriers, such as accessibility and aligning with the needs of farmers, is crucial to the future of soil-based farming.
While there are challenges to be faced, technological innovation presents an opportunity to increase efficiency, sustainability, and resilience. By investing in research and development and fostering collaboration, emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, and blockchain can transform the food system.
Companies like Hectre are leading the way in developing innovative solutions for the agricultural industry, but there is still much work to be done. It’s up to all of us to seize this moment and build a more sustainable, efficient, and equitable future for generations to come.
Find out how Hectre’s clever yet simple-to-use technology can help you achieve greater efficiency and sustainability. Book a free consultation with our friendly team today!