Synapse and the Cambridge Consultants team attended the World Agri Tech Innovation Summit this past spring. We showcased our novel soil sampling technology during the Summit and were honored to have our colleague, Niall Mottram, Cambridge Consultants Head of AgriTech, speak at the well-attended Delivering the Future Farm panel.
The summit offered the opportunity to gain insight into the newest technologies in agriculture from industry experts. It was fascinating to learn how vanguards are leveraging technologies such as big data, machine vision, AI, and gene manipulation to improve productivity and deliver local, fresh, nutritious food to the table.
We were particularly struck by the application of CRISPR genome editing technology towards improving crops. Early adopters employ the process to accelerate the selective breeding process, reducing time to market from 10 years to 5.
Greater advancements in crop trait design are technically possible with the tool, however regulatory landscape uncertainty and market acceptance concerns are larger risks companies must manage. Some panelists suggested waiting to follow on the heels of medical application of the technology, leaving the challenge of gaining consumer acceptance to others before marketing products in the food industry. While application of CRISPR appears limited to the largest commodity crop producers today, as those risks are mitigated its application will be accelerated to solve more problems.
We were also intrigued by Blue River Technology, a company that applies computer vision to selectively spray herbicides on weeds, not crops. Farmers can both aid the environment and their margins by using 80% less product. Using smart technology to save materials, time, and money was a common theme at the summit and one which Synapse and Cambridge Consultants have been pioneering with our novel mixing and targeted spray technologies.
The bay area startup community was present as well. Plenty is coupling technology with indoor farming to massively increase yields to 350% of traditional land based methods. Indoor farms and their ultra local product bring many environmental benefits and access to local produce to communities.
Ultimately consumers acceptance of technologies in their food chain will drive the ag industry direction. Their buying choices, what they ask sellers to stock, the questions they ask of restaurant staff, and the social media efforts of both consumers and industry will determine how technology is applied to agriculture.The producers are actively engaging in education campaigns before launching new products to help consumers understand their options. We encourage shoppers to educate themselves on how these new technologies are applied to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. We see a huge potential societal benefit in the application of technology to agriculture and we’re excited to see how it progresses in the future.