Drones, connected objects, crowdfunding … the digital revolution in agriculture is in full swing

The seed has germinated. Forget the image of the farmer, a bit of straw at the corner of his lips. Imagine it instead working with a computer, smartphone, connected sensors or drones… In this constantly innovating sector, AgTech players are pushing AgTech well? Understand companies and start-ups that put the latest technologies and digital innovations at the service of agriculture and agri-food. A booming sector.

Globally, investment funds in this sector have increased from 38 in 2005 to 450 in 2017. An explosion. “And the amounts invested in AgTech went from $ 185 million in 2008 to $ 10 billion in 2017” recalls Paolin Pascot, co-founder of Agriconomie, an e-commerce site for seeds, fertilizers and agricultural equipment, and president of La Ferme Digitale, an association which precisely aims to “promote innovation and digital technology for more efficient, more sustainable and more citizen-friendly agriculture”. For the 2e This year, the Digital Farm organized a day dedicated to AgTech on Tuesday, with some 120 start-ups at the rendezvous, from drones to robots, from collaborative platforms to e-commerce sites.

Drones and sensors

A hundred start-ups… and as many innovative solutions. Some aim, for example, to support the farmer and help him make the best possible decision. Like Airinov with its drone equipped with a multispectral sensor which measures the growth of crops. The leader in leisure drones Parrot, moreover, entered its capital a few years ago. Drone also on the side of Chouette, a start-up born in 2015 from the collaboration of two engineers from Airbus. Here, it is a question of flying over the vines to detect in particular the appearance of diseases. “We have around thirty customers and around a hundred pre-orders,” explains Chouette. Among the customers, the Château Pape Clément for example.

The sensors, which can be connected, are also a decision support solution for farmers. What weenat, Farmviz or Copeeks offer in particular, to name just a few start-ups. The idea remains the same: to have precise information to best adapt the actions to be carried out. What to allow a better use of fertilizers for example and especially to improve the yield. Technology, a support for the farmer? Yes, and not just in the field work as such. With its management software for farms, Ekylibre combines accounting, inventory management and production traceability. Enough to save time, and therefore money, for the farmer.

Collaborative

The other aspect that new technologies have helped to strengthen is collaboration. And agriculture has not escaped this trend. An association has even been created to bring together seven different collaborative initiatives. Its name: Cofarming. There are start-ups such as WeFarmUp which allows the sharing of agricultural equipment, La Balle Ronde which supports the sale of fodder or AgriFind. “We are The Good Corner for agricultural skills” explains Sébastien Roumegous, one of the partners. This is to promote mutual aid, the exchange or sale of agricultural advice.

But collaborative work is also an alternative when it comes to funding. While crowdfunding is on the rise in France, the latter –336 million euros were collected on crowdfunding platforms in 2017–, sites specializing in agricultural projects are not to be outdone. Miimosa, launched at the end of 2014, has already supported more than 700 projects and raised 2.5 million euros. The young Agrilend platform is leading the fundraising campaign for a 4e project, for an amount to be collected of 200,000 euros. Crowdfunding is also very widespread among farmers, and not only to obtain funding for projects. According to a recent survey by Financement Participatif France, Crédit Municipal de Paris and La Banque Postale, 16% of French people have already contributed to a crowdfunding project, this is 31% among farmers.

Getting closer to consumers

Crowdfunding also makes it possible to recreate a link between farmers and the rest of the population. More and more, consumers want to know where what is on their plate comes from, short circuits have flourished, producers are stepping up initiatives to get closer to their buyers. A rapprochement facilitated by digital technology. Les Grappes, for example, is a community marketplace specializing in wine. It has “more than 800 winegrowers” and some 15,000 members. Developed first for sale to consumers, it has also been aimed for a year at professionals, restaurateurs, wine merchants or delicatessens … Another initiative: Monpotager.com which offers to virtually cultivate a plot before receiving the harvest at home.

Always innovating, agriculture is all the more fertile ground for these new digital technologies as farmers are very connected: 79% of them use the Internet, which is more than the French average. Suffice to say that the field of possibilities for AgTech is wide. And offers good prospects as agriculture faces a deep crisis.