Farm & Food 4.0
International Congress Berlin
Farm & Food 4.0

10. February 2020

Bringing about positive change in the agriculture and food sector through financing and cooperation

Keynote speech: Aidan Connolly, Farm & Food 2020

Aidan Conolly is CEO of Cainthus, Ireland. Farm & Food has invited him to speak at the fifth Farm & Food 4.0 in Berlin about his expertise on financing in agriculture. Here you can read his keynote speech of 20 January 2020. sal

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What a farm looks like in the fifteen years

I also am very optimistic about technology and what it can do for the planet. I don’t know if it makes me the person who is supposed to represent capitalism in this room but I certainly I am being optimistic about what technology could to for agriculture, for food and for the planet.  

How do we produce more milk, more eggs, more meat, more weed, more barley, more beans with the same amount of land, two percent increase per year?

If you look at the productivity of agriculture, we have managed to achieve that. The yields in almost all agricultural commodities have risen around 1.8 percent per year over the past twenty years. If we continued that we would achieve the 70 percent more food.   

However, as we are extremely aware particularly in Germany and my own country, Ireland, consumers are looking for more and they want to see sustainability, animal welfare and they want to see that we do the right thing in terms of how we produce the food.

I often get asked to speculate about what a farm looks like in the next ten to fifteen years. I find that very challenging. I think we are looking at a tsunami of information and technologies coming at us and I think we have to look at the next 24 months.

The speed of innovation is increasing, we are aware of that in all businesses. Even in agriculture, where it has been a bit slower, we see innovation speeding up.

When people say to me, “Agriculture is not going to change; it hasn’t changed effectively for fifty.” I ask them if there have been taxis before Uber, movies before Netflix. We have seen so many businesses that have been ripped apart and catastrophically changed – wont that happen in agriculture as well?

You have already seen the painting of Steve Sonc (as described by Joe Bassett in his keynote, e.n.), Illinois. He just describes a farm that is increasingly connected in real time, collected information from plants, feeding them back into the harvesters, the fertilizers. The information influences how we feed animals.

The data gaps that exist in agriculture are huge. Look for example at the poultry industry: It thinks that it is phenomenally efficient; it puts thirty, forty thousand birds in a house, lets them run around for forty days and takes them back out. If you ask a farmer what they know about the process, they’ll tell you that they know the weight of the chickens when they go in, and the weight of the chickens, when go out.

They don’t know the weight in the middle of those forty days, nor the feed intake on group or individual levels, water intake or health. Then we get into animal stress and welfare, carbon dioxide, ammonia: All these data points are not known. And that’s the excitement I think in terms of what we could do next.

Financing agriculture and food sector

I think there is the “eight of technologies” that will transform agriculture: There are four which are software based (AI, VR, Augmented Reality, blockchain), four which are hardware based (robots, sensors, drones, 3d printing) and I put the internet of things at the centerpoint.

Described as the agricultural revolution, these five areas are extremely important: Smart farms, sensor revolution, microbials, genome editing, next generation of plant breeding.

Right now we are facing a world, where a lot of agricultural technology is coming in. From an agtech perspective, the newcomers and innovators who are part of the group which brings these technologies to market, the startups sometimes do not understand, what farmers need.

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