Newsletter #93 - Agritech

Jack Ma sets eyes on farming after Europe tours

Over half of the world’s hungry are Asians, according to the latest report by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation. Making matters worse, we’re also seeing world food prices at their highest in more than a decade.
As we get back on our feet after the Covid crisis, we need to rebuild our agricultural systems in a way that is healthier, more sustainable and equitable for all, says WEF’s founder and chairman, Klaus Schwab.

Given the complexity of climate change and food security issues, how can the global agricultural industry cooperate and innovate scalable solutions?

Always be learning,
Team NC

🌾 What’s growing in Asia’s agri-tech scene?


Will indoor vertical farming address food insecurity now and beyond?  [AgriBusiness Global]

Vertical farming takes root in cities - Vertical and indoor farming operations have gained popularity over the past decade, mostly in urbanised areas of developed countries like Singapore and Japan. Some such farming operations rely solely on artificial lighting, though some still rely on sunlight.

Pros and cons - First, the pros. Vertical farming naturally produces significant output per unit area, reducing land and water use drastically. Vertical farming also allows for a high degree of traceability due to the use of AI and blockchain technologies in a controlled environment.

Next, the cons. Mostly leafy greens are being produced despite many vertical farms claiming they can grow tens of varieties. Being able to grow them is one thing but growing them economically is another altogether. Also, many vertical farms use artificial lighting, which incurs high energy costs.

The future - Vertical farms need to effectively address the cons and challenges such as indoor pests before they can compete with land-based farming. Some experts believe that only well-funded businesses will have all the tech and resources needed to effectively address food insecurity and meet future food demands in a meaningful and sustainable way.


From e-commerce to e-farmer? Jack Ma starts digging for China [The Straits Times]

Sprouting new ventures - In the past few months, Alibaba founder Jack Ma appears to be switching focus from the world of e-commerce to—you guessed it—farming, as he has been seen doing “study tours” of companies and research institutes involved in agriculture.

Alibaba has unveiled its “10 moves towards common prosperity” initiative and pledging 100bn yuan by 2025 that will be invested in technology and farming industrialisation. Analysts believe that a combination of Alibaba’s cloud computing and big data capacities could significantly modernise agriculture in China.

Promises to upgrade village farms - The Alibaba supermarket chain Freshippo recently announced plans to invest in 1,000 “Freshippo Villages,” committing to spending 100bn yuan to order produce from farmers in those villages. The company says this is a response to China’s 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) to help modernise agricultural sectors.


How agritech can help Africa’s pandemic recovery [Quartz]

Lack of support for farmers - A new report concludes that youth engagement in agriculture will be essential to Africa recovering from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The survey found that young people are interested in working in agriculture, but they lack access to financial support and training that would allow them to build sustainable businesses and rewarding careers.

‘Uber’ for tractors and farmers - The good news is that Africa has a burgeoning agritech scene. One example is the company Hello Tractor, which provides an app that enables farmers in Africa to book tractors and another app for remote fleet management.

But while many farms that used the app have said it has helped them yield more crops and earn more money, others don't feel the same benefits due to lack of proper internet access and digital infrastructure.

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