Agriculture Technology

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Information about Agriculture Technology

Published on January 30, 2014

Author: rroyse



According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, food production must increase by 60% to feed the Earth’s growing population which is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050. Ninety percent of the growth in crop production is expected to come from higher yields on existing farm land requiring farmers to gain additional efficiencies from their land.

The agriculture industry is already highly dependent on technology and is not slow to adopt new hardware and software if it can help improve yields. Current forms of agriculture technology, often referred to as “precision agriculture,” help farmers determine where and what to plant on their land with a level of accuracy that was not possible ten years ago. The next step is to move from precision agriculture to predictive agriculture and “Big Data” will be the main driver of this change.

AGRICULTURE TECHNOLOGY Roger Royse Royse Law Firm, PC Palo Alto, San Francisco, Los Angeles Skype: roger.royse Twitter @rroyse00 IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: To ensure compliance with the requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication, including any attachment to this communication, is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to any other person any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Need for Agriculture Technology • The Earth’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 • The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that food production must increase by 60% to meet increasing demand • 90% of the growth in crop production needs to come from higher yields on existing farm land

Funding Agriculture Technology • The agriculture technology market is still immature, with most deals done at the seed stage • In 2012, there was an estimated $27 billion of venture capital investment in the United States – Of this, agriculture technology companies raised about $100 million resulting from 40 deals – While a majority of U.S. venture capital deals take place in Silicon Valley, only around 20% of agriculture technology deals take place there, with the rest occurring closer to big agriculture markets

Precision Agriculture • Allows farmers to determine when, where, and what to plant with a level of accuracy not previously possible – Today, precision agriculture provides: • Satellite navigation and guidance • Monitoring and mapping of yields • Live soil information through sensors installed in vehicles

The Future: Big Data • Companies are now collecting vast amounts of data to improve precision agriculture and predict farming trends • Data can be uploaded to the cloud in real-time providing farmers with instant information on their land and crops • Climate Corp., recently acquired by Monsanto Company for $950 million, uses Big Data to generate trillions of data points to predict daily patterns and insure farmers against the weather scenarios of their choice

Legal Issues: Data Ownership and Privacy Data Ownership: • The American Farm Bureau Federation (“AFBF”) warned that companies collecting data from farmers may use the data to their own commercial advantage in ways not foreseen by farmers – The AFBF advised farmers to consider their data ownership rights when agreeing to contracts which store data in the cloud Privacy: • Environmental activist groups are demanding information and transparency from farmers and with data in the cloud there is now more information for them to request – In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency controversially released personal information on farmers following a Freedom of Information Act request from environmental groups • Data could be sensitive and farmers may want to keep some information out of the public eye e.g. pesticide use

The Future: Drone Technology • Drones could revolutionize farming through: – Mass data collection – Surveying land and planting seeds – Surgical precision in the use of pesticides, fertilizer, and water • Brazil and Japan already use drones in agriculture, however commercial use of drones is still prohibited in the U.S. • Safety and privacy concerns that affect urban areas may not apply to farms – However, farmers are concerned that drones will be used by environmental groups to spy on and monitor their operations

Concluding Thoughts • More communication is needed between technology start-ups, farmers, and venture capital firms for further advancement • Growth and technology in this industry is promising as farmers strive to meet the challenges of feeding the Earth’s increasing population

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