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Flying robots and crawling worms

Insights about the trends in the food and farming industry

Since I was attending the Matinée Agritech at EPFL Lausanne and the Thought for Food Summit in Zurich, I love to share some insights about the trends in the food and farming industry with you:

Whilst mechanization, chemical substances and factory farming multiplied the agricultural production output in the last century, they also left an inglorious trace behind. It is an enormous waste to apply herbicide on an entire field, only to get rid of a few disliked weeds. Many inefficiencies also occur along the supply chain. Up to 40 percent of salads and potatoes never end on our plates. So which new technologies will help solve those challenges and shape the next revolution in agriculture?

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The trends today look light, some can even fly. Gamaya or senseFly Drones shoot hyperspectral images to provide farmers with precise analyses to reduce fertiliser input, for the sake of profit and the environment. Similarly EcoRobotix develops an autonomous machine, that weeds crops without chemical products. But not just analyzing and weeding is left to robots, Prospero can even plant seeds.

To address the distribution losses, companies like Combagroup, Urban Farmers or Growing Underground place the production in city centers right under, next or above consumers. There are also cleverly worked out low tech solutions for rural areas on further pressing problems. Kulisha works on an off grid production system that converts waste into insects to feed fish. Similarly Biteback proposes a palm oil replacement made from mealworms. Or Emanuel from Tanzania gives away thousands of tree seedlings to citizens, planting them will help reduce erosion.

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Two further highlights of the TFF Summit were the biology and a biomimicry workshops. The later suggested that we must look into nature to find ingenious solutions which have been carved out for the millions of years of its existence. An existence that we humans joined recently, on a 24 hours clock it's literally just in the last minute. Now, we and everything we do is nature too. With that said, there is still a lot of work to create a more open and efficient food system.

Thank you for reading! :) Please share to others if you like it.

Thanks to Dörte Bachmann, Simone Rudin and Paul Löffler for reading drafts of this and providing improvements. And to Martina Graf for the TFF Ticket.