On September 12, 13 and 14, 2016, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center hosted the 2016 Ag Innovation Showcase. There was a ton of great programming, sessions, and company presentations. Here are some of the highlights.
The major themes presented at last year’s Ag Innovation Showcase are still highly relevant
In our Highlights from the 2015 Ag Innovation Showcase we highlighted that “A confluence of data, biologics and collaboration is moving agricultural production systems into the 21st century.” Those trends have only increased in momentum and activity since last year, including in the three major areas identified:
Collaboration is happening both horizontally and vertically along the food production value chain. The intersection of technology and research is driving new collaborations. Collaboration is also becoming increasingly global.
Biologics, derived from naturally occurring organisms which can be cultured or synthetically reproduced, represents the next generation of agricultural innovation. Biologics will be a key component in helping producers maximize yield and mitigate risks, in the face of increasing scarcity and costs of agricultural inputs.
Data will be increasingly valuable in assisting producers and others in the food supply chain. Data will assist in farm management as climate variability, input costs, and water issues challenge producers. Data will also be key for other participants in the food supply chain, (such as food manufacturers and retailers) as sustainability and traceability of food and food production become increasingly relevant and important to consumers, regulators, and policy makers. We are continuing to see the integration of hardware (sensors, land based and aerial drones, imaging hardware, and integrated capital equipment) with software (data analysis, machine learning, predictive analytics) to drive precision ag and improve decision making.
Ag innovation continues to increase in global scale and reach
Companies from around the world were in St. Louis for this event. In addition to the U.S., companies from Argentina, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, were showcased, and many other countries were represented as sponsors, panelists and attendees. Not only were these emerging companies from all over the globe, but increasingly these companies are targeting a global market, including developing areas such as Africa and Asia.
We are also seeing increased global collaboration and global focus. This is highlighted well through the efforts of The Yield Lab agtech accelerator. The Yield Lab, based in St. Louis, Missouri, launched The Yield Lab Galway, in July 2016. Operating in Galway, Ireland, this accelerator was formed to focus on European agtech activity.
Sustainability and the Elimination of Waste throughout the Value Chain are Critical
Many of the companies showcased and the discussions held had a common theme: sustainability in agriculture, agricultural practices and eliminating waste in the food production value chain. These two themes go hand in hand as the value chain works to overcome supply and demand challenges. On the supply side, increasing climate variability, water scarcity and input costs are requiring a change in practices.
On the demand side, increasing global population, increasing demand for higher quality and nutritious foods and an increase in awareness around global hunger and food security is raising consumer awareness and a desire for sustainability, increased transparency and a recognition that agricultural productivity needs to increase to overcome these challenges. Sustainable practices and opportunities to eliminate loss and waste in the value chain will be two key components in meeting global demand, reducing hunger and improving food chain security.
University Tech Commercialization
A tremendous amount of technology currently resides in universities. We are seeing more and more universities recognize the need put this technology to good use to meet market demands and global challenges. A number of university technology transfer and commercialization offices were present at the Ag Innovation Showcase and highlighted the different models they are using to support entrepreneurship and technology commercialization.
These were but a few of the takeaways we had coming out of three great days at the Ag Innovation Showcase. It was a great program and RubinBrown is proud to be able to attend an event that showcases the region and its leadership in agricultural innovation so well!
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