Can the Midwest own innovation in Big Agriculture?

 

As the innovation ecosystem in the Midwest expands with almost breathtaking speed, we are establishing ourselves as best-of-class in fields such as nanotechnology, robotics, digital and financial tech, material science and advanced manufacturing. I want to add one more area in which the Midwest can be recognized as the world’s leader in innovation. It is perhaps the most obvious and least recognized of all—agriculture.

This region has obvious advantages in terms of both tradition and the vibrancy of its innovation ecosystem. Leadership in agricultural innovation on a large scale is there for the taking. But we are not the only ones to know that. The race is on to become the AgTech home for Big Agriculture (or Big Food), with creation of an enormous number of jobs and value up for grabs.

As an entrepreneur, I look for opportunity. Big Food presents some of the best opportunities in the last few years. Here are some reasons why. The International Association of Agricultural Economics projects worldwide population will grow 35 percent by 2050, leading to a 59 to 98 percent increase in demand for food. There are two ways to meet this hunger. Cut down more forests to open more arable land—an approach that is both unwise and unsustainable—or find new ways through bioengineering and precision farming to increase yields from existing farmland. Without a doubt, the trends and impact have enormous implications for everyone.

The latter is where opportunity lies for the Midwest economy. We have the talent, the resources and tradition as the breadbasket of the world to emerge quickly as the leader in new approaches to production-scale agriculture.

I live in Chicago where most of my urbanites friends relate to disruption in agriculture largely through farm-to-table distribution or the vertical urban farming movement. This is rather a narrow view of agriculture. Let’s recognize where the big opportunity lies—production-scale agriculture, which already represents such a huge segment of the Midwest economy. Just a 1 percent increase in production driven by innovation in sustainable precision farming, bioengineering and supply chain systems would trigger enormous change that would impact generations to come. Others agree. Here are just a few people who see the big impact in the industry: David Friedberg, Michael Pollan, Norman Borgaul.

But if we are going to do for innovation in agriculture what Silicon Valley is to tech and New York is to media, we must act now. The Midwest trails in early-stage investment capital in this industry. There must be more with a specific focus incubating production agriculture startups. That suggests the rest of the innovation ecosystem, especially the VC community, should ramp up before others emerge elsewhere. Rest assured that I’m not the only person involved in the future of agriculture who recognizes the potential for leadership in the growth of production-level agriculture. If we don’t seize it, another region will.

There is no greater need in the world than sustainable ways to feed the growing number of people on earth. There is no more logical place for Big Food research, entrepreneurial activity, systems development, to take place than right here.

 

Aker wins the Clean Energy Trust Challenge

There are no words to describe winning, the validation of the hard work of your team, and gaining more enthusiastic supporters to achieve your purpose. Yesterday was a defining day for Aker as we continue to move the ball down the field to bring meaningful tools for faster adoption of precision agriculture practices globally. We are honored to receive a big spotlight and investment support from the Chicago Clean Energy Trust and their investors.

As the saying goes… focus on the journey, not the destination. Now, we take the next step to bring greater value to our customers and keep a lifelong commitment to reduce the human footprint on the planet. Big thanks for the CET and all your stakeholders. We are glad to be part of this community.

 

Aker expands service to Arizona and Imperial Valley regions

Aker is pleased to announce general service availability across Arizona and Imperial Valley regions starting this spring. This expansion is possible because of our new agent and service partnership with BPG Designs with offices in Tempe, AZ and Carlsbad, CA.

“We are excited to partner with the BPG team as they have over 17 years of successful experience working with the most innovative technologies and demanding customers in the region,” said Orlando Saez, Co-Founder & CEO of Aker.

“BPG Designs has established roots in this community. Further we have significant mapping assets and a deep understanding of GIS, which we are ready to deploy for the benefit of our new agricultural clients. Aker brings agronomy insight to help convert images into value for large growers and retailers,” said Nikolas Smilovsky, Mapping Department Director.

“BPG Designs and Aker will bring a proven platform to the heart of vegetable growing region of the United States. Retailers and growers using Aker has added support for many crop types in this region so growers will be able to better protect their valuable crops, and make better decisions during the growing season,” said Cameron Perry, Agricultural Product Manager at BPG Designs.

Aker is an in-season crop monitoring and autonomous scouting solution for farming globally. Aker enables proactive observation and directed scouting to alert of adverse environmental conditions impacting crop health and yield.

To learn more about how Aker is helping retailers and grower’s bottom line, visit aker.ag for further information.