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22 September 2022

The Agritech ecosystem takes off to boost the digital transformation of the fruit and vegetable sector

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The need to adapt agricultural productions to increasingly demanding sustainability regulations has accelerated the creation of new startups that will help fruit and vegetable companies implement the digital transformation of their businesses. These small startups have developed technologies that allow them to increase productivity through more efficient use of resources and make reliable predictions from data analysis.

Alimarket Gran Consumo

The agri-food sector is currently facing multiple challenges in order to respond to market demands in a scenario surrounded by uncertainties. Among the main challenges facing companies are increasing productivity, while implementing new measures to be more sustainable, and profitability, especially in a context of energy crisis. To all these problems must be added the effort involved in adapting to new and increasingly demanding regulations, as well as the difficulties companies face in setting sales prices in a very complicated situation due to the escalation of prices of all inputs in the last year.

It is precisely in this difficult scenario that a clear commitment to the digital transformation of the business becomes more important, a process that, once implemented, will enable all players to be more profitable and comply with the environmental requirements imposed by the new regulations. Agritechs, technology companies that offer their hardware and software platforms to innovate and implement new systems for Agro companies in the four links of the food chain: production, processing, marketing and distribution, are involved in the digitization process.

But what exactly do the Agritech ecosystem companies provide?  They offer data through the aforementioned platforms that provide valuable information for companies to make the best possible decision. The data also enable a descriptive analysis of what has already happened and what is happening now, as well as a prediction of what may happen in the future.

prediction of what may happen in the medium term to reduce the level of uncertainty. Furthermore, depending on the technology applied, they can achieve savings of up to 70% in water consumption or 40% in the application of phytosanitary products.

There are currently around 750 Agritech companies in Spain, which ranks third in the world in terms of number of operators, behind only the United States and India. This means that Spain has the highest ratio of technology companies per inhabitant in the world, and is also the leader in Europe, ahead of the United Kingdom and three times the number of operators in countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany. Spanish companies, 60% of which were created less than five years ago, offer to date more than 40 different technologies or services, both hardware (sensors, for example) and software (agricultural applications), focused mainly on the production and processing industry sectors. In terms of scope of application, they can be used in all company departments, from production and packaging to administration, quality, purchasing and sales.

There are two types of technology for implementing the digital transformation plan. The first is responsible for capturing data, whether through apps, maps, sensors, satellites, ERP, drones, blockchain or Agrobots. Then, data analysis systems come into play, such as Big Data technologies, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, analytics, Business Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, virtual and augmented reality. At the moment, they are small companies, given that up to 58% of the companies have a turnover that does not exceed 250,000 € per year.

In other words, this is a sector with great potential, since the ecosystem is made up of recently created startups that are showing sustained growth. So far, according to the Agrotech España association, the number of closures of this type of companies is negligible compared to other sectors of the economy. In fact, up to 81% of operators expected to increase their sales in 2021, in a scenario in which food companies are accelerating the digital transformation of their businesses. 

Nax Solutions, Kaampo, Bioagro and Agualytics are some examples of startups that are in the expansion phase after developing new specific applications for the agricultural sector. The first, through the use of satellite images and Artificial Intelligence (AI), has developed a platform that can indicate to the farmer where he has to apply more water, add more fertilizers or if there is any anomaly in the operation. Kaampo has also developed its "smarthub farming" project, capable of bringing together all the technologies applied to the field on a single platform. The company has a technology that issues a certified field notebook document adapted to the requirements of its autonomous community with a single click. Its objective is to provide the farmer with a field notebook that is generated automatically, as well as to ensure compliance with periodic inspections.

Agritech initiatives in the field of water management are also proliferating. One example is Bioagro, which has developed a soil moisture calibration algorithm that lets you know when, how much and where to irrigate. The necessary data are obtained by using sensor technology distributed on the soil and also by capturing localized satellite and meteorological information. Agualytics, on the other hand, is a startup specialized in the development of software for water cycle management, based on the use of Big Data and IoT. The company indicates that it can achieve savings of up to 30% in water use and reduce up to 70% the occurrence of breakdowns in the distribution network.