Tech and Agriculture: Not Mutually Exclusive

   Today, drones are commonly used in agriculture. (Photo credit: MIT Technology Review)


Today, drones are commonly used in agriculture. (Photo credit: MIT Technology Review)

As a company committed to bringing technology, data, and blue sky startup thinking to one of humankind’s oldest industries, we at Avalow are always keeping our eye on emerging technologies in agriculture, farming, and gardening. Advances in farming since the agricultural revolution have enabled humans to dominate the planet, driving ever more efficiency from a fixed set of resources. But tech is probably not the first thing you think of when thinking about farming. You’d be surprised how tech and ag are quite intermingled.

Large-scale agriculture relies heavily on precision farming using GIS(Geographic Information System) mapping to deliver inputs to crops in a tailored manner. More recently, drones have been employed to add another layer of data to massive farming operations, allowing them to “keep an eye on the crops” like their forebears, but at scale. The future of technology in big-farm agriculture is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Big players like John Deere are placing corresponding bets as we speak.

But what about other, more close-to-the-earth (pun intended) technologies? We at Avalow come across new products, companies, and ideas fairly regularly. Many of them are completely outside of the box ideas or have no direct applications for the home gardener. In fact, we have a company Slack channel devoted to tracking products complementary to ours, potential partners, and future competitors. Most of what I mention below is harvested from this internal messaging channel.

First, there is plenty going on indoors in the farming world, including a company named Plenty (wink). They are a vertical farming company that will build a 100K square foot operation outside of Seattle, expected to produce 4.5 million pounds of greens per year. Softbank invested $200M in them earlier this year! Many other firms are working on the indoor farming space, including AgricoolAgrilystBrightFarms and Bowery.

A few firms also make garden beds, such as Metal Garden Beds (we think ours are prettier), the Durable Green Bed made from concrete panels, and every size and shape of raised bed garden kit, none of which we recommend for serious gardeners.

In our scouring of the internet, some of our favorite agriculture technology finds are (we think) humorous ideas such as the garden weeding robot from the makers of the Roomba vacuum, or the very cool Farmbot that has little meaningful/practical application, or a smart product that we may someday implement in our own gardens such as the Seedsheet, a weed-resistant tarp with strategically placed seed pouches for more efficient sowing.

We would be remiss if we did not mention some of the technology we are working on at Avalow. The “sub-irrigation” technology in our custom-designed garden beds delivers water in a supremely improved way (versus drip or overhead watering) via a reservoir system. Take a peek at how it works by clicking on the video below. Our garden service is supported by a mobile app that ties together our clients and our team of garden experts. Our clients stay on track with a structured system for garden management and we always have their back in case they get deep into the weeds (pun intended, again). Check out our website for more information.

We will be monitoring this space closely and will report back as new developments materialize. It’s truly exciting that tech has given agriculture such a warm embrace. It’s natural; tech loves to solve problems and the challenges facing our food systems are big ones to tackle. Certainly there is much more to come.

Marley Hutchinson