Ahead of the virtual Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, we spoke to Amy Novogratz, Founder & MD at Aqua-Spark, Bendik S Sovegjarto, CEO at Bluegrove and Aidan Connolly, CEO at Cainthus about digital solutions for precision livestock farming and aquaculture. Here’s what they had to say:
Amy Novogratz, Founder & MD at Aqua-Spark
How is the aquaculture industry progressing towards greater productivity and welfare through digital solutions?
The transformation of aquaculture from an opaque industry, with no to limited data driving production methods or transactions less than a decade ago, to where we are now with technologies using sensors or acoustic tech to optimize feed resulting in almost zero feed waste and increased growth rates, to AI driven farm management platforms that offer real time insights on disease treatment and ideal harvesting schedule, to solutions that bring more humane and efficient ways of culling fish, just to name a few, are starting to prove aquaculture’s potential as the most resource efficient animal protein production system and we are just at the beginning. In addition, the ability to see the data behind the industry changes the story and gives tools to a wide range of stakeholders like, retailers, labelers, investors and consumers, for example, enabling them to improve their part in the equation.
What is next on the horizon for aquaculture? What steps need to be taken to bring supply and value chains greater resiliency and efficiency?
We need much greater tech adoption across the industry and connected to that, more investment. We should start tying regulations, certifications, financing, and insurance to the data secured by these farm technologies. We are already seeing a rise of digital marketplaces and data driven financing options made possible from the digitalization of farms – a more transparent and data driven way of trading seafood and financing farms is next and will be a real game changer.
Why do you think it’s important to bring the ecosystem together in a virtual format for this September’s Animal AgTech Innovation Summit?
Personally, I’ve really missed connecting with the wider industry! But really, the most exciting thing about the agtech and aquaculture industry in this past decade has been opening the industry to collaboration, data, and knowledge sharing platforms. From our portfolio I see that individual companies and farming operations seem to be making progress, but the momentum of the industry progressing together seems to have stalled. We need to catch up on what other areas of agtech and aquaculture value chains are up to and reconnect to the big picture. Seeing all these talks and having these conversations in one place opens our minds around our approach and possibilities of the future. Big thanks to the Rethink team for pushing through and bringing us together during these times.
Aidan Connolly, CEO at Cainthus
What are your predictions for investment and innovation in the precision livestock farming space for the rest of 2020 and into 2021?
I think we have seen an explosion in agtech investment into livestock applications to a degree that I do not think that we have seen in prior times. This is partially driven by a more interesting deal flow but also, I feel that livestock technology is looking more promising than other sectors, in terms of profitability and also opportunities for the next period of time, on a relative basis.
What does the animal ag industry need to focus on going forward as priorities and pain points shift because of the pandemic?
I think that the animal agtech industry is going to focus its priorities in terms of the removal of labour, both from the farm and from a health safety perspective, biosecurity and not least availability. Everything that can be done to remove the requirement for physical presence on the farm, by expert advisors, remove the requirement for people on the farm and enhance the people who are doing the jobs, is clearly going to be extremely attractive and this would stretch into the traditional sector of sensors, cameras, drones and of course robots, but would also open up the opportunities for machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and 3D printing to a degree that perhaps people have not considered.
Why do you think it’s important to bring the animal agriculture ecosystem together in a virtual format for this September’s Animal AgTech Innovation Summit?
Well I do not think we have a choice. I still prefer face to face and the opportunity to meet people. I think networking is massively important in any business and even more important in agriculture, but given the nature of the pandemic and the true interest that people have in embracing technology faster, the timing is very good to bring everybody into a format where they can exchange those ideas.
Bendik S Sovegjarto, CEO at Bluegrove
“In aquaculture, we are starting to realize it is not enough to simply apply data models and rich sensors to enhance the quantity of food production. If we want to optimize production sustainably and use our scarce resources wisely, we must make sure that technology oversees and assures the ecological balance of a farm. Focusing on ecology helps farmers gain better yields, lets consumers benefit from higher quality food, and ensures production within the limits of nature.”