Have You Seen This? Innovations in Ag That are Disrupting the Sector
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (May 9, 2023)
Innovation is going to have to lead the way in supporting human life in the future, and the agtech sector seems at the ready, having been valued at $18.12 billion worldwide in 2021, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 10.2 percent.
What are some of the novel developments that may be key to a well-fed population and negating climate change? Here’s just a few that are in the works:
Bees are our critical partners, safeguarding human well-being and the success of our agricultural production systems, with a value of $20 billion. These insects are essential to human survival, so there is increasing innovation in agriculture equipment to help protect bees and maximize their pollination capabilities. But as of late, honey bee colonies have experienced a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, and today, more than 30 percent of honeybee colonies are disappearing each year.
Since bees are a key component to food security – one out of every three bites of food we eat being dependent on the work they do as pollinators – innovators are diligently working to find solutions to colony collapse or alternatives to fight it. Enter, robotic bees, which combine artificial intelligence and machine learning to help bee colonies survive and thrive.
And while some might not look like bees (RoboRoyale’s version are about the size of a penny and look like sticks with wings), they are built to mimic bee ‘muscles’ to fly and land independently. Their wings, which flap 120 times per second, function using piezoelectric actuators – strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric field is applied.
Companies like RoboRoyale are working to combine micro-robotic AI into beehives to better support queen bees and produce healthier hives. Through their research and efforts, RoboRoyale expects the robots will learn how to groom the queen, in turn optimizing her egg laying and pheromone production. Additionally, the robotic bees can play a role in transporting protein-rich foods to the queen at optimal times.
Clothing Made from Soil?
This young, associate researcher in the Natural Materials Lab at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning, Penmai Chongtoua, worked with colleagues to make fabrics that are composed of over 60 percent soil. So you may be wearing your garden soon – and not just the flowers that are in it! Chongtoua’s goal is to develop wearable fabrics from earthen materials in hopes of “bringing us intimately close to an element that most of us rarely consider in our day-to-day lives, … and encourage people to examine their relationship with Earth, and perhaps re-imagine more symbiotic ways to coexist with it.” Lions and Tigers and Robotic Scarecrows?
It may sound like Wizard of Oz gone wrong, but robotic scarecrows are the answer for producers who deal continuously with pesky birds or rodents that pillage their crops. Today, high-tech devices with motion sensors have scarecrows shooting laser lights more than 600 feet across a field to scare off the invaders (no harm done) before they can destroy a crop. The savings can be phenomenal since for example, flocks of starlings, numbering in the tens of thousands, eat hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of livestock feed and spread diseases like Salmonella and Johne’s disease. For the dairy industry, the loss can be up to $55 per cow per year, and in the grain sector, up to 16 percent loss of crop for corn per year.
Many producers employ lasers mounted on barns and the like as part of their Integrated Pest Management (IPM), with returns seen within a year. While most effective at night, autonomic lasers keep birds away from crops and feed 24/7.
Sample Production Gains with Laser Use (Courtesy of Wild Goose Chase.)
From Hot Pot Oil to the Friendly Skies
Hot pot is a popular Chinese meal, but it generates a lot of oil waste – some 12,000 tons of waste oil a month in the Chinese city of Chengdu alone! But this innovative Chinese startup created a way to turn this waste into biofuel that can power planes.
“Our mission is to make gutter oil fly to the sky,” said Zhong Guojun, vice president of Sichuan Jinshang Environmental Technology, which is behind the project.
The aviation industry is just one of the many sectors tasked with finding greener ways to power its products, and more than 100 aviation companies are already committed to the goal of replacing 10 percent of their jet fuel with a sustainable alternative by 2030.
For more agtech innovations, look to our sister publication, Global AgInvesting (GAI) AgTech Intel, which is published every Thursday.
 Arnold, Mallory. Revolutionary Bees Might Save the Real Ones. Outside. March 8, 2023. Accessed May 9, 2023.
– Michelle Pelletier Marshall is contributing editor and author for HighQuest Partners’ GAI News and Unconventional Ag, and managing editor for its WIA Today blog. Additionally, she is the company’s Senior PR/Media Manager. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org