From using hydroponics to build greenhouses and to grow mushrooms, to creating “bespoke” vegetable patches, from precision agriculture to drones, agritech startups are changing the agricultural business as newer trends emerge. Agriculture is one of the cornerstones of Italy’s economy and, and it has altered significantly as the world moved towards digital and mobile platforms and new technologies emerged. Italian agriculture is evolving rapidly and finding its own unique way of combining progress with tradition, technological advancements with craftsmanship. Let’s take a look at the most interesting agritech startups in Italy and at how their innovations are revolutionising the agricultural world.
What’s unique about agritech innovation
What sets agriculture apart from any other business? Among other things, its different parameters for scalability. Most agritech startups in Italy, for instance, have innovated processes and products thinking specifically of Italian agriculture: the projects may or may not be scalable but they don’t need to be in order to survive. This allows startups to thrive in a smaller environment, whereas international competition may prove too strong for some of these young enterprises. These startuppers have turned the smaller size of their own market into an advantage, by valuing their relationship with tradition and incorporating it within their quest for innovation. In other words, developing high-tech solutions for a high-tech environment might get you crushed, but doing it for a traditional environment may allow you to thrive and grow.
Agritech startups in Italy
It has been calculated that one in ten Italian startups operates in the agritech business. Considering that Italy currently counts just under 19000 startups, this means that about 1900 are innovating agricultural processes and products. About half of them are located in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Lazio, but the south is catching up rapidly. One of the most interesting trends in the Country, at the moment, is precision farming. Several cloud-based apps are being made available to farmers, allowing them to track every aspect of their activity in real time and make data-driven decisions. This system reduces waste and cuts down on costs, without compromising on quality, thus making the whole agricultural cycle more sustainable. Startups such as Agricolus and Elaisian are excellent examples of this trend, using data to influence agricultural processes and techniques and optimising production.
While innovation in agriculture is one of the driving forces behind human progress, but it would be naive to assume all changes are being embraced enthusiastically. Agriculture is, after all, an industry with a long-standing tradition of relying on farmers’ wisdom and deep knowledge of the land. Agritech startups in Italy have encountered a certain degree of resistance when science and data are proposed as alternatives to the kind of know-how that gets passed down for generations. However, within the context of a globalised economy, no industry can afford to lag behind, particularly not one that relies heavily on exports and therefore on delivering certain levels of productions with at least some degree of consistency and predictability.
The future of the food industry depends on the development of technological innovation in agriculture, which makes agritech startups potentially essential players in our future economy.