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AgTech was once ice, now it's drones and sensors

AgTech is such an interesting topic. Sometimes consumers are excited about the innovation and other times they are afraid or want to go back to simpler times.

Last week I read Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, by Dan Koeppel. Great book. I learned that demand for tropical bananas in Northeastern U.S. cities lead to supply chain innovations.

Keeping bananas cold when they moved from the Caribbean to the U.S.reduced rotting. Banana companies figured out how to use ice to chill storerooms, boxcars, and cargo vessels with blocks of ice, increasing their success. These storerooms, boxcars, and cargo vessels became a connected network of shipping facilities and railroad hubs, much like we are used to today. All of these were welcome changes. That took bananas from a few dollars each to a price the average consumer could pay.

In the 1880s, bananas were chilled with ice. Today we use compressed air. Plus, the cold chain is being outfitted with sensors and hooked up to the cloud for constant monitoring. These changes let us eat food from around the world. They’ve enriched our diets.

Now we are looking at bringing a new generation of technology into our food production. These sensors will reduce food waste through better climate monitoring. They will reduce food miles. Instead of shipping bananas from 1,000s of miles away how can we grow them locally. We are years away from solving this problem, but indoor leafy green and herb businesses are the first step.

We have been striving for advances in agriculture for centuries. For much of that time the goal was to grow more affordable food. Today, we want to grow more sustainable, more flavorful, and higher nutrient food. Plus we have a cool name for the space, agtech! It's exciting to see new innovations from packaging to gene editing and of course everything about indoor farming.

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