White paper calls for more ‘Agtech’ investment

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Innovations in agriculture have allowed worldwide food production to triple over the past 50 years with a comparatively small increase in the amount of cultivated farmland. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough.

With total food demand expected to increase 70 percent by 2050 – and food prices expected to rise as much as 100 percent during that time—sustainable agriculture technology, or “AgTech” will be not just instrumental, but critical, to increase productivity in the face of significant environmental constraints and challenges. Despite its potential and needed impact, AgTech has seen little investment relative to sectors such as renewable energy.

That’s according to a new white paper released by the Kauffman Foundation and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The paper contends AgTech is where entrepreneurs can step in to increase agricultural production to feed the world.

The white paper, “AgTech: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Growth,” explores the pressures facing the global agriculture system and identifies the enormous opportunity for innovation, and associated investment, in this large ($2 trillion in farm assets) and growing economic sector. The paper can be read by clicking here.

“We face the challenge of producing more food in the next 40 years than during the entire course of human history, on a planet showing signs of environmental stress,” said author Suren G. Dutia, Kauffman Foundation senior fellow. “AgTech innovations will be absolutely essential to meet this goal.” The foundation is based in Kansas City, Mo.

The paper evaluates the current state of the AgTech sector, analyzing data on 900 AgTech companies that show a robust and steady stream of new business startups in areas including crop and animal production, processing, and manufacture and distribution. However, despite its size, AgTech has not had the investment of the renewable energy sector. Dutia and his team highlight the need for increased investment in new AgTech ventures—and, using it as an example, identify the U.S. heartland as an ideal hub for this entrepreneurial activity.

“Our hope is that this paper will spark other organizations to join us in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in the fast-growing AgTech and related industries,” said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer and senior vice president for administration and finance at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center located in St. Louis.

Dane Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, calls the message of the paper “positive, but urgent.”

“We have an imperative to meet the challenge of feeding a growing population while preserving precious environmental resources,” Stangler said. “Sustainable agricultural technology offers the best way forward—and an enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike to contribute to achieving this critical goal.”

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that aims to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the foundation has approximately $2 billion in assets. For more information you can visit http://www.kauffman.org/.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center was founded in 1998 and is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research aims to feed the hungry and improve human health, preserve and renew the environment and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants and contract revenue from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations. More information is available at www.danforthcenter.org.

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