Agrifood — the$ 8 trillion industry that’s worth your salt

Agrifood — the$ 8 trillion industry that’s worth your salt

Cannabis-infused drinks. Burgers grown-up in laboratories. Entire dinners in bottles. Consumers, retailers and farmers alike are hungry for the next generation of food, and investors are beginning to acquire the savor, too. Early-stage be invested in agrifood tech startups reached $10.1 billion in 2017, a 29 percentage increase on the previous year.

Agrifood can be split into two parts. “Agritech” refers to technologies that target farmers. “Foodtech,” by contrast, targets producers, retailers, eateries and consumers. Collectively, the two have enough reaching to impact every part of the production line, from farm to fork.

Recently, foodtech investments have led the charge, with Delivery Hero’s IPOand multi-million rounds in ele.me and Instacart. However, agritech deals are catching up: Indigo Agriculture and Ginkgo Bioworks raised $203 million and $275 million, respectively.

There’s also more acquisitions activity in individual sectors. Some recently cooked news is demonstrated that both Uber and Amazon could be in talks with Deliveroo for a potential acquisition. Meanwhile, John Deere put $305 million on the table for the robotics company Blue River Technology, and DuPont acquired farm management software Granular for $300 million.

So why the growing interest in agrifood?

Food is a huge market, and it’s changing fast

Back in 1958, there were 3 billion of us on the planet. Today, population size has reached 7.6 billion, and is due to hit a whooping 11.2 billion in 2100. That is a lot of mouths to feed.

But the appeal of the food market doesn’t stop at volume. Indeed, following Bennett’s Law, as people’s income increases their diet becomes more diverse. This economic compulsion to seek assortment is being complemented by a rise in ethical customers voting with their forks. Many have grown well informed the link between food and ecology, health and animal welfare. The number of vegans in the U.S. has increased six-fold in the last three years, and more than tripledin the U.K. over the past decade.

This is not just a suit of having our cake and feeing it.

These dual tendencies have led to supermarket shelves and restaurant menus evolving at pace. Consumers are keen as mustard to find new and healthy “superfoods” such as insects Eat Grub and Cricke — and new consumption-forms, from meal replacing alternatives like Huel to vegan meal boxes such as allplants.

When it comes to agritech, alternative production models have also arisen to cater to customers’ predilections. Horizontal farms such as GrowUp and LettUs Grow, for example, could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of farming.

Combining the above two ingredients — a growing population and a diversification in diet — cooks up quite the appetizing dish for investors: The global food and agriculture industry is estimated to be worth at least$ 8 trillion.

New technologies are creating big opportunities

The food and agriculture value-chain is full of bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Some of them could be solved with the intelligent application of well-known technologies.

The humble online marketplace, for example. Marketplaces, including Yagro, Hectare Agritech and Farm-r, let farmers transact machinery and goods, while peer-to-peer platforms like WeFarm enable knowledge sharing. Food procurement marketplaces have cropped up too, such as COLLECTIVfood, Pesky Fish and COGZ — as have direct-to-consumer services, such as Farmdrop and Oddbox.

Some tech answers are far more complex.

Genetic engineering, for one, is providing plenty of food for thought. Indeed, the UN suggests that food production must increase by 70 percentage by 2050 to feed the world’s population growth. Genetic engineering could increase crop yields by 22 percent globally, as well as assist pre-empt pre-harvest losses.

To this end, CRISPR is revolutionizing how food is grown. CRISPR technology helps producers optimize photosynthesis and the vitamin content of crops. Since it was first tested on tobacco production in 2013, CRISPR has been used on a range of crops, from wheat and rice to oranges and tomatoes; and for a whole spectrum of applications — from boosting harvest resistance to pests, to improving nutritional contents. CRISPR is also being applied to livestock. At the Roslin Institute in Scotland, researchers have successfully used CRISPR to develop virus-resistant pigs.

In the same vein, there have been major advances in cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture combines biotechnology with food and tissue engineering to render agricultural products like meat or leather from cells cultured in a lab.

It is easy is how cellular agriculture and the companies applying it, such as Meatable and Higher Steaks, could dramatically change farming and food production.

Therefore, investors have thus been seduced to take a bite at the” clean meat” industry. In Europe, Mosa Meat only raised $ 8.8 million, while U.S.-based Memphis Meats created $ 17 million in 2017.

Even though products are yet to reach the shelves, the appeal is clear: The meat market will be worth $7.3 trillion by 2025, with a 73 percentage increase in demand by 2050. And clean meat technology could allow for the production of meat at virtually infinite scale: In just 2 month, 50,000 tons of pork cells could be grown per bioreactor by use starter cells from 10 pigs. This could dramatically reduce the production cost of meat, and also its environmental cost: 6x less water is needed and 4x less greenhouse gas is emitted per pound of clean meat compared to “traditional” meat.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning is also impacting agriculture. One of the main possibilities, amongst many, is in precision agriculture.

Farmers now receive better information on crop status due to advances in image recognition, sensors, robotics and, of course, machine learning. Startups such as Hummingbird Technology and Kisan Hub have developed solutions that outperform human” harvest walks .” Similarly, Observe Technology offer fish farmers with AI-powered insights to optimize feeding.

Consumer adoption is also likely to be shaped by the economic, environmental and ethical implications of agrifood technologies.

Moving indoors, Xihelm( full disclosure, Oxford Capital is an investor) is developing a machine vision algorithm that enables roboticized indoor harvesting. Such technologies could help solve the labor crisis in agriculture: The 2017 labor dearth saw labor expenses rise by between 9-12 percent in the U.K.

When the food moves from farm to retailers, supplying chains can become unwieldy and difficult to manage. As a result, there is a $40 billion scam problem in food. Blockchain technologies are being applied to solve this problem, powered by companies such as Provenance. Walmart recently announced that their leafy-green vegetable suppliers must upload their data to the blockchain, allowing them to tracing food back to the source in 2.2 seconds instead of a week.

Agrifood tech is still an acquired taste

Although the agrifood market is huge and presents many opportunities for investment, it still isn’t quite the tech investor’s favorite dish. Yes, investment increased to $10.1 billion in 2017; however, fintech reached $39.4 billion in the same year.

There are several reasons. Digitization is growing, but it is slow. Farmers are understandably risk-averse. Their repugnance is strengthened by the seasonality and fallibility of their activity. Most crops deliver create once a year, so any missed harvest can have dramatic and long-lasting consequences. Implementing any large-scale technological answer represents a risk; hence veering away from the status quo is a decision that cannot be taken lightly.

Regulation is a huge consideration for the sector. The Court of Justice of the European Union recently ruled that plants created with CRISPR must go through the same lengthy approving process as GMOs. In France in 2018, a law banned the use of terms like “meat” and “dairy” for vegetarian and vegan products — although it is not clear how this law will apply to cultured meat products in the future, nomenclature is a fight clean meat startups will want to win for the sake of customer acceptance.

Consumer acceptance is also likely to be shaped by the economic, environmental and ethical implications of agrifood technologies. It is chastening to remember that agriculture hires one in four people in the global workforce, a large proportion of which are girls.

The future of food could see unemployment issues in farming; large changes in livestock and feedstock production; and significant modifications in land management. Furthermore, gene editing is likely to benefit big corporations more than independent farmers — who could be put at risk.

This is not simply a example of having our cake and eating it. Instead, the ingredients need to be chosen with great care, or the” future of food” dangers leaving a very bitter taste.

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