These trends, in addition to the challenges that the food industry is facing, will be part of the topics that are going to be addressed by the First International Congress and Fair of Innovation and Technologies in Agrifood, CFIAgrotech 2023. The meeting, which will take place in Chile between October 24 and 26, in the Metropolitan Santiago, will bring together 150 agtech exhibitors of innovation, technologies, supplies and services for agricultural and livestock sustainability, as well as the food processing industry, among others.
But what is an agtech? The term comes from the fusion of the words agriculture and technology and refers to the sector that uses technologies such as robots, blockchain, big data, artificial intelligence and biotechnology to analyze information from the field, genetics and climatic phenomenon, allowing to optimize the agricultural sector.
In Chile, agtech startups are playing an important role in modernizing the agri-food industry, using innovative technologies to respond to the specific needs that the sector is facing. For example, drought and lack of water are two of the main problems and the companies are developing solutions such as smart irrigation and monitoring to address it, optimizing water consumption. Thus, they help farmers to be more sustainable and to face climate change effectively.
Other agtech startups have specialized in precision farming technologies, which allow growers to make data-driven decisions to increase production, reduce costs and optimize their processes. Some of these solutions include the use of drones and analysis of data to monitor and manage crops in a more efficient way. These drones are equipped with cameras and sensors that give farmers detailed information on their crops. This way, they take precise measures on irrigation, fertilization and pest control. This not only reduces costs and waste of resources, but also improves the quality of the food produced.
At the same time, another line of work is the development of specialized solutions for specific agri-food sectors, where the application of technology is designed to improve the production and quality of fruits and vegetables and the monitoring and management of vineyards. The formulation of alternative foods such as meat of vegetable origin or grown in the laboratory is also part of the solutions that have been created in the last years to mitigate the environmental and social challenges, reducing dependence on conventional livestock and its impact on the environment. In addition, the implementation of technologies, such as vertical agriculture, which allows food to be grown in small and controlled spaces, or agriculture in smart greenhouses, which optimizes the use of energy and resources, are also contributing to greater sustainability in food production.
AGROTECH CHILE PRESENT AT CFIAGROTECH 2023
In Chile, despite the progress made, there are still innumerable challenges that producers have to face in order to increase the productivity and profitability of their businesses in a sustainable way. Besides water scarcity, there are environmental regulations, soil degradation, lack of labor, and the severe demands of final consumers, among other barriers.
“For this reason, we need to promote the incorporation of technology in the agri-food industry to do more, but with the same resources,” says Francisco Astaburuaga, CEO of AgroMatch, a startup that leads the creation of the Association of Agricultural Technology Companies (Agrotech Chile).
Using artificial intelligence and IoT (Internet of Things), the company created a platform that securely connects owners of agricultural machinery or service providers with producers in the sector that require these equipment or solutions. Thus, the owners of the equipment (tractors, nebulizers, guano carts, etc.) can lease it to other farmers in the country during periods of low use, extending its period of occupation.
“Promoting agtech startups is essential,” says Astaburuaga, “but equally important is attracting young people to the countryside, so it is necessary to make the attractive conditions currently offered by the agri-food sector known to the new generations.” He adds that to ensure the success of agtech startups it is necessary to have the trust of farmers who often do not perceive the real value of incorporating technology into their processes, which makes commercialization difficult. “For this reason, it is key to establish strategic alliances between agtech startups to work collaboratively with clients. That is one of the objectives that we propose as Agrotech Chile”, he explains.
The association, which is currently consolidating its legal constitution, has already more than 30 technological entrepreneurship linked to the agricultural industry and, recently, elected its first board of directors where, together with Francisco Astaburuaga himself, Tomás Pérez from Green Atacama and Claudia Barriga from Smartcherry, were elected. “We also have another 40 agtech interested in joining us and we are managing alliances in Chile with the National Society of Agriculture, the Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) and the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), which will allow us to continue promoting the lines of work and projects that we have defined for this first stage”, he details.
But that is not all. Within the plans of the association there is also the formation of a collaborative instance at the international level. “We want to form a great alliance at the Latin American level –declares the executive–. The Agrotech Latam Association”.
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