Across the world, there are pioneers who are changing the way we think about food. Some use GPS data to create yield maps that show soil productivity, yield predictions and establish seasonal planting patterns. Others, use mobile phones to share information about weather reports, insurance products, and to access market prices, thereby empowering rural farmers with valuable knowledge for sustainable farming. This new generation of food suppliers is not only reshaping the global landscape, but their local communities, too. They harness technology to advocate for positive change in our food ecosystem and have the potential to usher in a new era of sustainable farming practices that will transform the agriculture sector.

2015 was a huge year for the food and agriculture technology startups, garnering as much as $4.6 billion investment. This figure was nearly the double of the investment poured into this sector during the previous year, and was partly fuelled by a growing demand for organic food, as much as more efficient farming methods. Whilst some countries in Africa (e.g. Uganda) have always taken pride in consuming naturally grown, non-GMO foods, new startups across the US, Europe and Australasia have now spotted an opportunity in this burgeoning market. Amazingly, the new startups are not only upgrading the conventional farming system, they are redefining it entirely. Organeco Farms, a start-up focused on the East African region promotes environmentally sustainable management of the farm land and the natural environment using technology. In the US, for example, portable farms have started using shipping containers to grow ready to harvest vegetables in only 6 weeks. The projects grow veggies like lettuce and is driven by the agri-tech startup named the Freight Farms.

Each Freight Farm is supplied with a water distribution system, liquid fertiliser, and a propane container to generate additional carbon dioxide. The entire farm consumes a mere 10 gallons water and 80kWhr of energy each day. If the conditions are optimum, the produce is ready for sale within a mere six weeks which is quite astounding. The data analysis of the company has revealed that the Freight Farm box, on average, can produce 48,568 lettuces heads for sale annually; the same yield as that generated by the two acres of land cultivated via the conventional farming techniques. Freight Farms has received a massive funding of nearly $5 million and will sell almost 150 farms this year, with each farm bring sold at $80,000. In 2010, Gotham Greens accomplished what was then the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse, perched atop a Brooklyn warehouse. The Co-founder & CEO, Viraj Puri explained the idea of the project:

“When we started this thing in 2009, we were one of the only ones out of this new guard of hydroponic indoor farming. In 2016, there’s probably 100 of us.”

Such success has not gone unnoticed. In Newark, N.J, Aero Farms which just lately acquired over $30 million from investors, is remodeling a 70,000 Sq.foot metal mill into the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. Today, consumers realise that we need a sustainable and very cost-effective source of agricultural produce. Given these behavioural changes, and ever increasing demand for healthy food, it’s no wonder that the new face of the agriculture could be a cluster of steel containers using hydroponics to grow vegetables in greenhouses. Overtime, the benefit of these improvements will boost farmers’ profit by cutting costs, increasing yields, and should also offer global consumers markets lower prices.