August 27, 2015    3 minute read

Drones: A Plug for a $750bn Drain

   August 27, 2015    3 minute read

Drones: A Plug for a $750bn Drain

The agriculture industry is inefficient

Each year, 504 million tonnes of food crop are lost to preventable causes such as pests, disease and water stress, representing 36% of global cross loss. Year on year, global lost farming revenues total a staggering $750 billion, this is more than the entire GDP of Switzerland.

But why should we care about production inefficiency in one industry?

Every day we are subjected to shocking statistics about all areas of our lives, it would be easy to dismiss the above as yet more figures which hold little relevance to our everyday lives. So let’s break it down further, so the data can really speak for itself. Chronic hunger affects 795m people worldwide – that is 1 in 9 of us. This is something the agriculture industry categorically cannot justify, especially when it prevention can be achieved. Granted, this is part of a larger issue, as it is not just the agriculture industry that experiences food wastage. However, it is a good place to start. This is where technology comes into action.

A new fleet of autonomous drones are offering farmers a different viewpoint on their crops, one that coupled with field knowledge may provide for a better understanding of factors potentially affecting crop yields. With Bloomberg predicting the value of the commercial drone industry to soar to $82 billion globally by 2025, the ancillary worth of a modest drone cannot be denied. This flying robot, with a wingspan of a little over one-metre and equipped with a host of ultra-high resolution sensors, makes early identification of problem areas such as water stress, disease and nutrient deficiencies possible long before the human eye could see it. Thus allowing preventative measures to be taken and production unaffected. This is the future of the agricultural industry and a plug to a $750 billion drain.

Agri-Tech is rapidly becoming one of the world’s fastest growing and exciting markets. From Silicon Valley to the fields of Lincolnshire, firms including Kleiner Perkins, Light Speed Venture and FF Venture Capital are lining up to back drone start-ups. In Q3 2014 there was £172 million invested between 41 deals, up 29% on the £133 million in Q2 2014.

Some companies are already tapping into this industry, with UK based start-up SenSat already in talks with Venture Capitalists to help meet the demand from UK farms. With the UK agriculture industry worth £5.6 billion per annum and a notable 346,000 farms across the country, the market demand is certain to be large. The UK Government is also standing behind agricultural innovation, launching an Agri-Tech strategy in 2013 with a £160 million fund.

The drone industry will bring us one step closer to reducing crop loss and chronic hunger, now it is down to companies like SenSat to put them to work.

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