Video clips Farm & Food 4.0 January 22 in 2018
"The good, the bad and the disruptive" - Success through timing, team and the right idea
Daniel Krauss, FlixMobility GmbH
Daniel Krauss, the founder of the highly successful intercity bus service company FlixBus, drew on the example of his own company to draw parallels between the mobility sector and the agricultural sector. “Transparency is important for mobility and agriculture,” said Krauss at the Farm & Food 4.0 conference in Berlin. The reason why, in contrast to Flixbus, other long-distance bus providers failed was that “They did not listen to what the customer wanted”, Krauss continued. He recommends that agriculture actively innovates and not only passively reacts in terms of its orientation and public relations work. “This is the most important message that is true in all sectors,” said Krauss.
Digital Farming @ Bayer: Technology for a better tomorrow
Dr. Helmut Schramm, Bayer CropScience Germany GmbH
Precise in crop protection
Schramm emphasised that world agriculture is faced with enormous challenges and has no choice but to implement digitisation technologies.
In the near future, ten billion people will need to be fed. Nearly one fifth of the world’s food crops are at risk from climate change, and the cost of producing new pesticides is nearly 15 times higher today than in the 1960s. Schramm sees the great opportunity of digitisation to provide crop protection in the future with the ability to apply chemical substances in a much more targeted and efficient manner. This would lower costs and, above all, help reduce the chances of chemical resistance emerging. His company will introduce a number of practical solutions in 2018 under the umbrella brand “Xarvio”. There will be a scouting module, which will monitor the crops, and a field manager, who will develop the concrete application recommendations. This brings the agricultural producer closer to achieving optimal crop protection over every single hectare.
Ensuring fair recognition of all stakeholders along the food production chain
Britt Kritzler, Connecting Food
Does digitisation add value to the food chain?
Britt Kritzler explored this question in her presentation at Farm & Food 4.0. It is clear that the former eBay manager knows what she is talking about – she now works on blockchain technology for the Paris start-up company Connecting Food. Blockchain is a novel form of Internet-based data accumulation that is expected to become the basis for connecting technical devices of all kinds (“The Internet of Things”).
There are potentially golden opportunities for this technology in the context of the food industry because, despite fundamentally good conditions, it is in crisis. Farmers are being marginalised, consumers are worried, brands are losing their value. In Kritzler’s view, this is chiefly due to the fact that the deciding factors for food quality today are highly complex and it is very difficult to control them. It is no longer simply a question of what makes a good schnitzel; its origin and production are also of interest, as are its nutritional value and the degree to which it has been exposed to pollutants. Such complex properties require a complex control system, the results of which must always be transparent. The blockchain here opens up the possibility of product certification in real time, Kritzler explains. The data for this would have to be recorded in a decentralised but standardised way and stem directly from the production process in order to prevent erroneous data entries or even attempts to sabotage the system. This blockchain-based system would be faster than a centralized data-system. In addition, weaknesses in the supply chain and payment processes would be detected rapidly. Ultimately, according to Kritzler, the IT costs of the companies involved will fall. The process is currently being tested in a project that includes ten major food manufacturers.
Trends in Demand for, and investments in, AgTech and FoodTec innovations in the US & EU
Dr. Mila Kletsky, Picking Alpha
Risk capital for young companies
In the search for new solutions, innovative companies in the agri-food sector have overlooked an important player in the value chain: the actual users of the digital products. Their opinions, their real needs and requirements have often been ignored. That is the reason why many initiatives in this area have failed, according to Dr Mila Kletsky. At Farm & Food 4.0 she presented the developments of the last five years in terms of demand and investment in innovative agri-food technology. Kletsky is the scientific director and president of Picking Alpha, an online publication that reports on undervalued markets and the areas of water, energy and food.
The new technologies and tools need practical users to prevail in the market. In 2016, venture capital investments declined sharply as investors suffered heavy losses following massive investments in IT and agricultural technology over the preceding years. Venture capital is a form of investment where investors bear an enormous risk as to whether their money will yield any returns or will be lost completely. It is not comparable to a loan; it is more like a form of development aid for young start-ups. According to Kletsky, these losses were caused by too many new companies trying to penetrate the agricultural landscape with digital products while knowing little or nothing about the food industry and the needs of farmers.
In 2015, billions were invested in so-called innovative agricultural technologies without adequate consideration of customers’ viewpoints. As a result, investments in purely agricultural technology declined significantly in 2016. Venture capital investment returned to high growth in the first three quarters of 2017, especially in the food sector and in particular in services such as e-commerce, online supermarkets and delivery services. Apparently, these areas have been much better researched and the needs of customers better analysed. More money was also invested in the development of new farming systems and in the financial sector for agricultural goods, including those using blockchain technology. Investments in agricultural technology, farm management systems and precision farming continued to decline in 2017. Biotechnologies experienced a noteworthy decline in investments. Kletsky cited people’s fear of biotechnology as the reason for this. Finally, she recommended start-ups that they engage with farmers in the development process of digital, innovative products and collaborate with them, as some companies are already doing. An alternative solution would be for farmers to develop the products themselves that they need and to fund their development via crowdfunding for example.
Podium discussion – "Trading in transition" strategic measures and challenges in the agrarian trade
The panel discussion in Berlin focused on the digitisation of the agricultural trade process. Uwe Steffin, editor-in-chief of the trade magazine agrarheute, chaired the panel discussion, which featured representatives from the agricultural trade as well as Klaus Bürg, managing director of Amazon Web Services. Bürg admitted that rethinking business models can be a tedious job – but an unavoidable one for the trade sector. In any case, Amazon will not stand in the way, said Bürg. “If hundreds of thousands of farmers come and want to buy fertilizer, then maybe we will offer some.” You can learn how Agravis, BayWa, RWZ and others plan to react to the challenges in the video..
Food and Mobility: How to reconcile mobility and good healthy food?
Helmut Ramsauer, SPINPARTNERS
Eating on the go
Helmut Ramsauer from Spinpartners addressed the topic “Food and Mobility – Eating on the go”. The company has been working together with designers to find holistic, fast and individual solutions in this area. For the participants, one of the biggest surprises when researching the subject was the realisation that hardly any studies have been done so far.
Ramsauer presented concepts that seemed like science fiction but are actually already possible. So, for example, it should be possible to deliver pizza to a train. He presented AVA as a vision of the future. This is a cross-platform platform that provides customized foodstuffs throughout the journey. Dynamic route planning simplifies the interaction between the individual mobility system and the food chain. This could even enable, for example, a main course to be served on the train and then dessert on the bus. In his opinion, in the future food as a quality feature will be an important factor in the choice of travel. Included here are also real-time delivery services and personalised services. This idea seems less far-fetched when one looks at the decision of car manufacturers BMW and Mini to equip their vehicles with the Amazon language assistant Alex starting mid-2018. This will allow drivers to make purchases from the Amazon shop on the go. Nothing will stand in the way of ordering food online and on the go.
A peek into the future
Dorothee Töreki, IBM Cognitive Solutions Group
Regional Food Production
According to Töreki, we are still at the very beginning of the food sector’s digitisation. If, according to studies, 80% of all cars will in fact no longer be needed in the future, Töreki wonders what our cities will look like. New concepts for inner cities could be developed. That's where vertical farming could come into play. Such systems can be used to produce food, in particular fruit and vegetables, in urban areas, in high-rise buildings or on fallow land with greenhouses that can create any climate, with or without artificial light.
The only means to ensure that all kinds of plants can be grown in decentralised greenhouses close to the consumer is by harnessing the data and the data-supported programs that control the artificial climate and nutrient supply. The mission of the American MIT Media Lab is to explore the possibilities of these ideas. Its Open Agriculture Initiative is re-thinking the production of food: transparent manufacturing, networking of people and exchange of knowledge and decentralised cultivation. They have developed “food computers”, small greenhouses that provide ideal conditions for healthy, nutritious food. Digital dosing instructions for water and nutrients are available for each type of plant grown in these hydroponic systems. Control programs are used for climate and light. Because it is open source, anyone can build a “food computer”. The instructions are available on the website of the MIT Media Lab. In addition, there are online training sessions and a forum for sharing experiences. So far, the focus in food production has been on keeping costs low and on mass production and transportability. Töreki believes that food computers could put food production back into the hands of millions of people. The speaker challenged the audience to go seek out new paths and to be open to new technology rather than only seeing impasses.
The annual Congress Farm & Food 4.0 took place for the third time on 22 January 2018 in Berlin. A number of acclaimed speakers discussed the digital future of the agri-food industry before some 400 participants as part of the International Green Week. The motto of the congress, which was organised by the Deutscher Bauernverlag (the “German Agricultural Publishing House”), Berlin, was: “In the middle of a revolution – seeking opportunities for the value creation of tomorrow”.