Flyover Country is having a global impact on AgTech innovation

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The field of agriculture has been shaped by technological advances since the beginning of time, whether you’re talking about irrigation methods or the productivity-increasing machinery that came out of the industrial revolution like tractors and threshing machines.

Today, applications of agritech are far-ranging and encompass several different types of agricultural and technological innovations from robots to moisture sensors to GPS tech. However, the aim is the same – an attempt to grow more food in less space and/or with fewer inputs.

Building AgTech Ecosystems

Some states are making purposeful strides to embrace the next revolution of agriculture. Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear, inked a deal with 16 partner organizations to focus on the initiative, which include five universities in Kentucky, two universities in The Netherlands, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, and several Dutch ag-tech companies.

A central component of the effort is a new hub called Kentucky AgriTech. Kentucky AgriTech will develop technology that includes robotics, farm-management software, biotechnology, bioengineering, logistics, distribution, food safety, food traceability, and online marketplaces. The governor believes agriculture could become a $10 billion sector for the Bluegrass State.

Innovating with Data Analytics

Data collection and analytics is a critical part of improving business operations in every industry and agritech is no exception. The Food and Agriculture Organization predicts a 70-percent growth in agricultural output will be needed to serve the projected demand. This driving force has greatly increased the interest in and utilization of data analytics in agribusiness. Farmers are using data-driven solutions to gain a greater understanding of environmental challenges, to increase productivity and profits, and reduce waste.

Smart Farm Systems, located in Lexington, KY, has developed a large-area wireless monitoring and control system for remotely located irrigation pumps and soil moisture monitoring devices. The system provides farmers with real-time, actionable information regarding the status of their pump equipment and monitors.

Advanced Agrilytics is an agronomic services company that uses its digital capabilities to provide growers with input recommendations and operational advice. The company has focused on the major inputs and in-crop decisions as determined by value and return on investment within the overall system. It’s a standout among the crowded SaaS providers in the digital agriculture space due to its high-touch business model.

Another company is Solinftec, a firm that converges data from machinery, weather, agronomy, and individual insights and research to find real-time actionable recommendations. The company was founded in Brazil but moved its headquarters to Indianaplois in 2019.

Taranis is a precision agriculture platform that moved its headquarters from Israel to Indy to help grow its presence in the Midwest. Taranis uses data science and learning algorithms to monitor fields and give growers timely information about replant and crop nutrition.

Flyover Future Standouts

Can artificial intelligence and data science make food tastier and healthier? Benson Hill, a St. Louis-based agritech firm, thinks so. The company’s AI-based crop design platform, CropOS, speeds up the process of crop breeding, which historically has been a lengthy slog of trial and error. By combining data science and machine learning with biology and genetics, CropOS allows proprietary phenotyping, predictive breeding, and environmental modeling algorithms. That’s a fancy way of saying AI can make our food more sustainable, healthier, and tastier.

In 2021, Benson Hill launched a crop accelerator—a 50,000 square-foot research facility that will help the company grow and test more nutrient-dense soybeans and yellow pea plants at a faster rate. (Here’s our interview with Benson Hill CTO Jason Bull.)

Cincinnati-based 80 Acres calls itself a farm “that doesn’t need sun, soil, or favorable weather to do its thing” because it uses a combination of LED lighting, artificial intelligence, and robotics to grow a variety of vegetables without the use of pesticides. Last year, the company secured $160 million in a funding round to continue its expansion and product development. Here’s our interview with 80 Acres Farm.

Akron-based Locus Agricultural Solutions is a Certified B Corp with award-winning soil “probiotic” technology that’s making an immediate and substantial impact on the climate change crisis, food security, and the need for sustainable agriculture practices to feed a growing population. Its technology enables farmers to grow up to 43% more food on less land, use 10+% less fertilizer, reduce N20 emissions by up to 75%, and sequester up to 5 additional metric tons of carbon per acre.

Stay tuned as we continue to cover these amazing advances.