A Close Look at the Top Trends Shaping the Future of Agriculture

“The transformation of agrifood systems won’t happen without our diligent and strategic work. It is up to us, the AgriFood community leaders, to keep believing in a better future and in making it happen.“ Hadar Sutovsy, VP of External Innovation at ICL Group and General Manager ICL Planet Startup Hub.

Advancements in agriculture are shaping the industry more rapidly than ever before. From the use of precision agriculture techniques and automation to the increasing demand for sustainable practices, the agricultural industry is undergoing significant changes. 

Progress and innovation in agriculture continue to be shaped by forces focused on the future, too. Meeting future food security demands will require significant efforts, given the projected increase of over a third in the global population by 2050, the impact of a changing climate, and the pressing need to achieve net-zero emissions within the same timeframe. There has never been a more urgent need for innovation. 

A few technological innovation areas within the agri-food industry, as noted by Hadar Sutovsky, Vice President of External Innovation at ICL and General Manager of ICL Planet Startup Hub, have the potential to drive agrifood systems towards sustainability and resilience, and aid in the provision of sufficient, healthy, and sustainable food. 

These AgTech trends – in 2023 and beyond – include alternative proteins, food waste mitigation, animal health, aquaculture, biotechnology in agriculture, carbon sequestration, digital agriculture, automation, robotics, and vertical and indoor farming. Of these areas, precision agriculture and digital agriculture, automation and robotics, and sustainability will be of particular promise and impact in the near future. 

Innovation in precision agriculture

The agriculture industry is experiencing rapid change through the adoption of digital agriculture solutions, which leverage modern machinery and computerized tools. By providing data that enables more efficient decision-making, these solutions are enhancing farm productivity overall, and are poised to be an important AgTech trend. 

With the use of advanced sensors, imaging technologies, and data analytics, precision agriculture is revolutionizing the way farmers manage their fields. Innovations such as autonomous tractors, drones, and satellite imagery have made it possible to collect precise data on soil moisture, crop health, and yield potential, enabling farmers to make data-driven decisions about planting, fertilization, and irrigation. 

These technologies, fueled by data and IoT, are helping farmers to improve crop yields, reduce waste, and minimize environmental impact, making precision agriculture an exciting area of innovation with tremendous potential for the future.

One area of digital agriculture seeing particular growth is unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These drones are seeing increased use in optimizing operational efficiency, crop production, and crop field monitoring. 

With remote sensing and digital imaging capabilities, UAVs are able to detect soil variations, irrigation problems, and fungal infestations. The agriculture UAV market is projected to grow significantly from $0.88B in 2020 to $5.89B by 2030, driven by new technologies and additional venture funding. The expected rise of drone-related government regulations may impact the growth and adoption of these technologies.

Beyond crop monitoring, UAVs are finding applications in other areas of agriculture, including livestock monitoring, crop scouting and inventory in smart greenhouses, structural inspections, and even the application of shade compounds. There’s even a field of precision fish farming, where drones are proving useful for collecting data on water quality and temperature, fish behavior, and wave velocity while minimizing labor costs.

Automation, Robotics, and AgTech Trends

Impactful innovations in agriculture also include machine learning algorithms that can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and make predictions about crop performance. Advanced robotic systems can perform tasks such as planting and harvesting with unparalleled precision. 

Hadar’s perspective on robotics and automation in agriculture is that “.. they are promising technologies for enhancing agriculture’s efficiency and productivity. Farmers have started to experiment with autonomous systems that automate or augment operations such as pruning, thinning, and harvesting, as well as mowing, spraying, and weed removal. In the fruit tree industry, for example, workers riding robotic platforms can be up to twice as efficient as workers using traditional ladders. 

Advances in sensors, artificial intelligence, and control systems allow for optimal implementation of integrated pest and disease management. Overarchingly, these innovations can help reduce labor costs, ensure optimized resource use, and enhance efficiency on the farm. This supports a key goal of growing more food with fewer inputs.”

Agriculture sustainability trends

As forecasted by the United Nations (UN), the global population is expected to reach 10 billion by the end of this century, which necessitates producing more high-quality food on less land in a sustainable manner. Sustainable development, as defined by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, entails meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

In 2023, agriculture sustainability trends will focus on transparency, circular economies, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Consumers are increasingly interested in sustainability practices’ transparency, and this trend will become more common throughout the supply chain. 

Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) will play a critical role in sustainability in agriculture, with PwC estimating that AI could reduce worldwide GHG emissions by 4% in 2030 through the agriculture, water, energy, and transport sectors.

Circular agriculture, which reduces agriculture’s footprint and resource requirements, will also gain more attention. By using minimal external inputs, circular agriculture can minimize the resource requirements and footprint related to ag. Common in smallholder farming, reusing, and recycling materials is an important part of this practice and will continue to grow in significance in the future. 

ICL Planet and AgTech Trends

For ICL, sustainability is a core value and a key part of doing business. Innovative, sustainable AgTech solutions are a key deliverable for customers. ICL Planet is delivering those solutions while working to become carbon neutral by 2050. 

Other sustainability goals include reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 30% and by 2040, driving renewable energy to 50% of total energy consumption. ICL is working to increase its yearly water savings impact by an additional 3% recycling of water waste streams, supporting an increase in its circular economy.  

Through using cutting-edge technologies and sticking to the highest environmental standards, ICL Planet creates sustainable approaches for the global agriculture market while operating in a sustainable way. 

ICL’s mineral fertilizers, controlled release fertilizer innovations, biostimulants, and turf grass seeds all support groundskeepers in growing exceptional turfgrass in an environmentally friendly way. 

By combining proven industry experience and expertise with sustainable fertilizer solutions and cutting-edge technology, ICL Planet provides unique value to customers and a platform with longevity for digital agriculture. 

Through sharing expertise with farmers and agronomists through e-learning tools and suggestion applications, ICL supports knowledge sharing related to sustainability and precision agriculture. 

Ag Innovation & ICL Planet Lead the Way

In the agriculture industry, key trends driving innovation and enhancing decision-making include precision agriculture, sustainability practices, and automation and robotics. From IoT to UAVs to autonomy, these technologies and trends play a critical role in feeding a growing global population while also caring for the Earth and its natural resources. As we move further, there is a lot to be excited about in terms of AgTech innovations from companies such as ICL, so keep an eye out for new developments in these areas.