Over 600 inventors, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists gather last week in Indianapolis for the Forbes Ag Tech Expo. Keynote speaker at the event was Purdue President Mitch Daniels who sat down with Hoosier Ag Today to talk the future of agricultural technology.
The Expo showcased new inventions like drones that spray your fields and a device that shoots electricity into the ground to extend the life of the nitrogen in the soil. Daniels, a long time proponent of agriculture and of technological innovation, said this kind of technology is essential to the future of agriculture, “Ag has always been a place of new innovation and where new technology mattered a lot. I think some of the best and most exciting science and entrepreneurial activity on our campus is taking place in the ag tech space.”
Daniels said, unlike the innovation of the past that was driven primarily by agriculture, the technology that farmers will use in the future will involve sectors outside of agriculture like computer science, artificial intelligence, and informatics. “Take, for example, our phenotyping lab, where we have hundreds of acres of crops and engineering students design drones that fly overhead,” he stated. “Other engineering students build soil sensors that measure moisture and nutrients, and all this data is sent to our big data computers where it is instantly analyzed to provide data on what varieties are performing the very best.” He added that another role that Purdue can play is preparing the employees who will use this technology. Daniels feels Indiana is in a unique position to help foster and benefit from the advances in Ag Tech that are coming.
This is the 5th Forbes Ag Tech event, but the first to be held in the Midwest. Steve Forbes said Indiana has proven itself a leader in ag tech innovation. Much of this leadership has come from the AgriNovus organization as well as the Indiana Economic Development Council. Venture capital groups from within the state as well as across the country attended the event. Carter Williams, with iSelect fund, estimated there is over $10 billion in venture capital that is focused on investing in ag tech. Beth Bechdol, with AgriNovus, said Indiana is focused on building an ag innovation ecosystem to bring this technology to market as quickly as possible.