SODERAL Think Phase 2

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Agricultural Commodities Innovations

Four key innovations are driving the agriculture commodities space, and these are urban agriculture and vertical farming, drones, artificial intelligence and automation, and CRISPR and genetic editing.

Methodology

We started the search by looking into agricultural commodities articles that had been published recently. We were able to find an article that addressed the five innovative agricultural practices or commodities that are changing the world. One of these is blockchain technology, and we decided to remove this from the current brief, as it would be specifically researched and reported upon in another brief.

We decided to research about each of the key innovations in the agricultural commodities space. We also looked into media articles, industry resources, and blog articles for other requisite information about the given topic. We were able to find the needed information through articles that talked about agriculture.

Five Innovative Agricultural Practices that are Changing the World

Urban Agriculture, Smart Design, and Vertical Farms

As space for agriculture is becoming more in need, various scientists have found a way to integrate farms in different locations such as deserts, mountainside towns, and cities. Farms that are found in urban areas or also known as urban farms could be quite similar to the traditional outdoor community garden, but they are also predicted to be complex in design and quite futuristic because they are designed to be regulated in contained pods with their own environmental systems. Additionally, 13 vertical farming innovations could help sustain the future of agriculture, and these are hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics, lokal, aerofarms, platscrapers, verticrop, modular farms, cubic farming systems, zipgrow, bowery, skyfarm, and sky greens.

Vertical farming is a technique used to produce crops and plants through “factory-style situations.” It removes the natural need of soil and sunlight; instead, it uses innovative artificial lighting and “nutrient-driven” technologies. An example of this would be hydroponics. Hydroponics is the ability to grow crops without the use of soil, by planting plants in a solution of various nutrients. Aeroponics is a growing technique produced by NASA in the 1990s. The method can help grow plants without the need of soil and very little water. Aquaponics is the kind of agriculture farming that infuses both plant farming and fish farming together by using fish-waste as a precious nutrient for plants. Another vertical farming technique that does not use much soil or sunlight is Aerofarming. This process of aerofarming uses the technique known as the “Aeroponic system”, a kind of system that helps plants grow faster, with better and superior quality.

Lokal is a kind of farming that serves the local community, by serving them the plants that they grow. The community is part of the growing process in Lokal, giving the community members the ability to check the crops with the use of Google Homes. Moreover, Plantscraper is a kind of vertical farming technique that uses vertical greenhouses within cities to sustain crops. It is planned to integrate itself with various office buildings within cities. VertiCrop is another innovative technique that utilizes a conveyor system. The system could give each plant sufficient nutrient and sunlight it needs to grow.

Additionally, this kind of vertical farming technique could eventually be used in urban and metropolitan areas. Another technique that uses the conveyor method is cubic farming. Cubic farming uses the conveyor method, the automated nutrient delivery system, and LED lighting to sustain the needs for its plants. It is reported to use only 1/26th of the water that plants use in the traditional agricultural system.

The Modular Farm system gives plants the ability to grow anywhere. The system uses a similar system from the urban farm idea, with concentrations on both farmer ROI and plant health. It is known to be a good compliment for container farms. While the Zip Grow technique caters more towards rookie and amateur farmers. It uses a vertical plane growing technology and various futuristic technologies to take care of the plants, with very little need for output from farmers to survive.


Bowery is an “indoor farming company” that is producing the vertical technique known as “Bowery farming.” This kind of farming is estimated to produce thirty more times than agricultural farming. It could also produce a hundred different kinds of plants and herbs. The farming technique uses the company’s BoweryOS to grow the plants automatically, and once again, automating the procedures needed for agriculture farming.

Skyfarm is another farming technique that caters to areas with high-urban density areas with very little space for farming. The technique relies on various existing vertical farming techniques such as aquaponics and traditional-soil planting techniques. Skyfarm aims to integrate these farming techniques within a hyperboloid tower made of bamboo. This tower helps maximize the crops’ exposure to the sun while also helping the growth of other agriculture commodities such as fish. This vertical farming technique is aimed to be a part of urban populations.

Sky Greens is a Singapore-based farming company that is also revolutionizing vertical farming with its use of its first “low-carbon hydraulic driven farm.” The hydraulic farm uses a conveyor system, moving plants from one place to another, giving each one the appropriate water and sunlight it needs to grow. It is predicted to produce ten times more crops than traditional farming methods.

Drones and Bees

There are five ways that drones could change the future of agriculture, and these are through crop assessment, counting cattle, monitoring for disease, water watch, and mechanical pollinators.

Drones are now being programmed to count for stock and watching out for plants that may require more nitrogen or oxygen. They are also being programmed to count for cattle, giving cattle ranchers an accurate number of their livestock and showing fences that need some fixing. Additionally, drones are being programmed to also look out for disease, by using air sampling to provide alerts to farmers about specific pathogens and their arrival. Drones are also being equipped with laser scanning technologies to help farmers assess the topography of their land, showing areas that are storing water. Lastly, drones can now function as bees in the near future. Technology has now given them a chance to pollinate various areas of a farm. A New York-based start-up has reported that drones have helped increased its pollination rates from 25% to 65%.

Artificial Intelligence, IOT, and Automation

Artificial Intelligence can now be seen in all forms of modern agriculture, like vertical farming. AI is also seen to improve traditional farming tools such as the grain cart tractor, making them more automated while maximizing its efficiency and capacity. There is also the growth of precision agriculture or also known as “smart farming” or “precision farming”. This kind of farming uses remote sensing, IoT devices, robotics, big data analytics, and AI to create a technology-based “high-resolution crop production system.”

CRISPR and Genetic Editing

CRISPR is now being used to improve livestock in agriculture. The technology has been specifically used to change cow microbiomes. This is to help decrease their consumption of food without affecting their health and physical stature. CRISPR is helping the meat industry to be “more efficient and more profitable.” It is also helping the environment by decreasing the methane production of cows.

Gene editing is also helping to improve existing crop sustainability methods. It still follows the tracks of past plant breeding methods, but this time with greater precision and efficiency. An example of this would be creating plants with more vitamin A in regions of the world experiencing micronutrient deficiencies. Additionally, gene editing is also helping to produce more productive and healthier livestock while preventing disease.

Part
02
of three
Part
02

Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Innovations, Agriculture

Key innovations in the agriculture commodities space as related to blockchain include 1) traceability in the crop supply chain, 2) precision farming and farming resource management, 3) internet-of-things and quality control, and 4) coffee and blockchain insurance. Meanwhile, some significant innovations in the agriculture commodities space as related to cryptocurrencies is the emergence of the Nagricoin and Mexico's Agrocoin.

METHODOLOGY

We began our research by searching through relevant reports, industry-related articles, and press releases for information on key innovations related to crop growing, crop management, and crops as we consider them to be agriculture commodities. These specific commodities are crucial for the development of other products. For instance, we assume that coffee and fertilizers are agriculture commodities. Therefore, we found that Agrocoin and the Nagricoin serve as significant innovations for agriculture commodity cryptocurrencies. We determined the key innovations by locating recent discoveries/uses that are related to modifying and improving the agriculture commodity sector. Hence, we selected those that appear to assist in advancing the industry the most.

KEY INNOVATIONS IN THE AGRICULTURE COMMODITIES SPACE

1) BLOCKCHAIN

TRACEABILITY IN THE CROP SUPPLY CHAIN

For agriculture, blockchain can be utilized to update and document, in real time, the condition of crops after harvest, planting, delivery, and storage. An advantage of blockchain is that it does not lose a load. Through blockchain tracking, growers can fulfill consumer expectations and industry regulations. Growers can also direct asset exchange (e.g., instant payment) and guarantee the status of product delivery. Furthermore, they can record seed types, weather, soil quality, farming practices, and filed applications.

Traceability can be implemented for every product by scanning the distinct barcode on each item using a smartphone. Growers can become familiarized with the source and authenticity of products. Startups that are offering blockchain for traceability are Blockgrain and Pipeline Foods.

PRECISION FARMING & FARMING RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Farmers/growers are capable of tracking the position of their resources whenever through farm management software. Resource management data builds marketing value for beverage and food corporations and helps optimize agronomics. The decentralized organization of blockchain accounts assists updates in becoming a component of the ledger. It also helps each cooperating device to obtain the modernized record. Even without internet access, any changes sync to the network when an internet conection is available.

Moreover, blockchain is able to track additional records including the state of in-field devices and sensors and machinery maintenance. According to AG Funder News, growers can observe the "machinery that is available for work, which machinery will need maintenance soon, and which are currently in repair." Meanwhile, farmers can locate any data in the supply chain, which can lead to higher compensation being given to stakeholders and induces a reduction in food wastage. This particular action adds higher value. Companies that are offering blockchain for resource management include Indigo Agriculture and Decisive Farming.

INTERNET-OF-THINGS & QUALITY CONTROL

Following a harvest, sensors can be administered to track the condition of collected crops. Every sensor generates records that are linked together into a unified ledger which produces real-time updates. Additionally, blockchain aids farmers with accurate irrigation depending on rainfall, along with custom fertilization contingent upon soil quality. It also helps them with targeted pest control systems. IBM and the IOTA project are providing blockchain for quality control.

IMPACT OF BLOCKCHAIN IN LATIN AMERICA

COFFEE & BLOCKCHAIN INSURANCE

To offer insurance coverage to farmers, it is necessary to implement the proper incentives for donors, consumers, retailers, and policymakers. Blockchain technology assists in managing large volumes of modest claims at moderate costs, as well as accelerating the compensation process. Following a disaster, smart contracts can be initiated, releasing payments without complicated operations and enabling farmers to produce coffee directly. As a result, the impact on the entire industry is diminished. Etherisc is a company that supplies this specific technology.

2) CRYPTOCURRENCY

MEXICO'S AGROCOIN - IMPACT IN LATIN AMERICA

Agrocoin serves as an agricultural cryptocurrency that is supported by the generation of chili pepper in the Latin American nation of Mexico. In Quintana Roo, one square meter of the chili habanero crop can support a single Agrocoin. Amar Hidroponia, a Mexican company specializing in the production chile habanero, thought of a concept of leveraging blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to revolutionize agricultural investment and farming. One unit of Agrocoin, according to Bitcoin Exchange Guide, is worth approximately 500 Mexican pesos ($27) and is comparable to the price of a square yield of chile habanero.

NAGRICOIN

Nagricoin is an international biotechnology business's agriculture project. It is a cryptocurrency that encourages the circulation and promotion of the Nagri-HL fertilizer. Nagri-HL fertilizer comprises a stabilized micro-nutrient structure, along with antioxidants, that produces superior crop production without contaminating. Individuals are able to become an investor of this particular agriculture project by purchasing an NGRX token.

Part
03
of three
Part
03

Key Companies

Some of the key companies innovating in the agriculture commodities space, specifically as related to commodities future include FarmLead, Grain Discovery, Indigo Agriculture, Agree Market, AgriDigital, Full Harvest, and Farmers Business Network (FBN). These companies are deeply rooted in either technology or providing e-commerce platforms for their clients.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

Our first approach was to find companies innovating in the agriculture commodities space, specifically as relating to commodities future and also agri-tech startups in the agriculture commodities space. We searched for information and insights from credible sources such as Forbes, AgFunder, Successful Farming, Bloomberg, PitchBook, Disruptor Daily, TechCrunch, and CB Insights. Based on this search effort, we were able to find precompiled lists of companies innovating in the agriculture commodities space, for example, the AgFunder innovation awards recognizing the top innovators and entrepreneurs driving the agri-food tech industry in 2018 and 2019.

From all these sources, it was evident that there were several companies and innovations across multiple sites and sources reported as leading innovation and disruptor in the industry. We considered the below-mentioned firms as key companies innovating in the agriculture commodities future space. Thereafter, we reviewed the identified companies’ websites and platforms to identify those specifically dealing with product and services innovations relating to commodities future.

1. FarmLead

FarmLead is an online grain marketplace that provides a platform for growers and buyers to negotiate better prices for their grain. The company deals with credit approved buyers and provide quality grain checks for sellers in the marketplace. The platform has checks and balances for protection of both the buyer and seller for negotiation-based agricultural commodities trading. The FarmLead mobile platform is recognized as an innovation/disruption in agriculture technology e-commerce.

2. Grain Discovery

Grain Discovery utilizes blockchain technology to create an efficient and transparent marketplace that improves the connection between farmers/sellers and buyers. The company’s innovation/disruption within the agriculture commodities space lies with blockchain technology that records and provides ‘digital passport’ for the provenance of commodity legitimacy, tracking, commodity differentiation, escrow, settlement, title transfer, and transaction security.

3. Indigo agriculture

Indigo Agriculture has a renowned plant microbial technology that uses machine learning and data analytics to improve crop yields. Indigo Agriculture grain marketplace platform directly connects growers and buyers, enabling parties to agree on terms of sales, price, and quantity, facilitate purchase quality-tested grains that meet buyer specifications, manages payments and provides a connection with specialty buyers registered with the marketplace.

4. Agree Market

Agree Market provides a global agricultural commodities marketplace trading platform. The platform provides a cloud-based hub for global agricultural commodities marketplace for buying and selling of grains, oilseeds, byproducts and other specialties worldwide. AgFunder recognized Agree Market as among the top agri-food technology innovation startups of 2019.

5. AgriDigital

AgriDigital is a cloud-based, multi-participant commodity platform that uses blockchain technology to facilitate commodity buying, payments, and tracking across the grain supply chain. The company operates specifically in the grains industry. AgFunder recognized the AgriDigital company as among the top agri-tech innovative international start-up of 2018.

6. Full Harvest

Full Harvest is a B2B marketplace that connects large-scale farms with companies/large commercial buyers that buy excess and imperfect produce. The company’s innovation enables buying and selling of commodities that do not meet the aesthetic standard. AgFunder recognized the Full Harvest company as among the most innovative US startups of 2019. Full Harvest mobile platform is recognized as a key innovation in agriculture technology e-commerce.

7. Farmers Business Network (FBN)

Farmers Business Network (FBN) platform provides numerous services to farmers such as e-commerce for agricultural inputs, advisory services and analysis, broad networks, and commodities marketing. With regard to commodities marketing, they provide market intelligence which includes commodity markets insights, pricing recommendations, market news, analysis, contracts, and brokerage, and also connects farmers with potential buyers to facilitate commodity marketing.
Their products and services include FBN Cash Grain Management, FBN Market Intelligence, FBN Brokerage, and FBN Cash Contracts. FBN mobile platform is recognized as a key innovation in agriculture technology e-commerce.


Sources
Sources

From Part 01
Quotes
  • "Precision agriculture involves big data, drones, sensors, and farm management software … Environmental controls, cellular agriculture (micro farms), smart packaging technology, gene manipulation, and e-grocer businesses have also pushed the entire agricultural business world into the computer age."
  • ""
Quotes
  • "Vertical farming is a revolutionary and more sustainable method of agriculture than its counterpart as it lowers the requirement of water to up to 70% and also saves considerable space and soil. This innovation in the field of agriculture with sustainability as its motto is making more and more heads turn today with its eco-friendly methods and making the possibility of farming real in difficult environs."
Quotes
  • "Just as genome editing is a groundbreaking technology with the potential to treat and cure human disease, the applications of genome editing for food, agriculture and animal welfare are at the forefront of tomorrow’s modern agricultural system."
From Part 03
Quotes
  • "FarmLead: The grain trading industry is taking a hit as commodity farmers sign up with FarmLead, an online marketplace for grain that eliminates the need for middlemen like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland ADM +0%. Buyers and sellers can register for free, deals are negotiated anonymously, and broker fees are reduced. Ag cred: Funding tops $7 million; investors include Monsanto MON +0% Growth Ventures."
Quotes
  • "FarmLead is an online grain Marketplace that enables you to buy or sell grain. The platform allows farmers and credit-approved buyers to negotiate and transact directly with one another. FarmLead does not buy or sell grain and is not a broker. Take complete control of your grain marketing, via the Marketplace."
Quotes
  • "The days of phone calls to secure market prices for grain are going to the wayside. FarmLead is re-inventing how grain marketing is done. Designed by farmers, for farmers, it provides access through an online platform and mobile apps to exclusive market research, price visibility, grain testing, and reduced brokerage fees and risks."
Quotes
  • "By creating a digital passport for agricultural products, blockchain technology is breaking down barriers not only in tracking food from field to fork but also in farmers’ ability to better market and sell their crops. For example, one of the projects Canadian start-up Grain Discovery is undertaking is tracking the path of soybeans as they are transformed into tofu."
Quotes
  • "Indigo has built a more transparent and efficient supply chain by directly connecting buyers and growers through a digital platform called Indigo Marketplace™"
Quotes
  • "The trading platform that allows buy or sell grains, oilseeds, byproducts and specialities anywhere, anytime. The global marketplace which connects counterparts all over the world."
Quotes
  • "AgriDigital's cloud-based commodity management platform makes your supply chain simple, easy and secure from farmer to consumer. Manage your contracts, deliveries, inventory, orders, invoices and payments all in one place and in real time."