The agri-food industry has proven to be a sector resilient to market fluctuations. In addition, incorporating new technologies has transformed the system to boost productivity and optimize resources, improving profitability and sustainability.
Over the past few years, the agri-food industry has strengthened its operations through various technological solutions, reducing risk levels and enabling more efficient processes, both in production and management.
Chile’s qualities as an agricultural producer
The Ministry of Agriculture reports that by October 2021, the sector exported US$ 15.5 billion, 9% more than in 2021, demonstrating the stability of the industry despite the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
According to ProChile, around 970 agricultural products are exported to 170 different locations, an activity that contributes 4.7% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Due to the variety of climates and soil and water availability, the country has privileged conditions for growing internationally highly demanded food. This has led to a rise in land purchases for investment, resulting in an upsurge in land prices.
The vast amount of land for the country’s different crops, which translated into an asset in the international market, is also worth considering.
Likewise, since Chile is counter-seasonal to the United States and Europe, its harvest times coincide with the most significant demand in those markets. Therefore, it is an essential factor for understanding the success of the local agricultural industry at the international level. The United States is the second primary location for fruit exportation, with 22% of local farm production, second only to China, where 35% of the products are destined.
However, an increase in exports is estimated for the 21/22 season, highlighting the crops of:
- Avocado: a 107% growth over the previous season is estimated.
- Plums: 139 thousand tons, 14% more than in the last period.
- Table grapes: exports are projected at 660 thousand tons, 23% more than last year.
Chile is a significant producer of agricultural products worldwide, with fruit exportation to various countries. But, to adapt to consumer requirements and market demands, the industry must adopt solutions to reduce the carbon footprint and enhance sustainability in the processes.
Foodtech industry: companies seeking a solution to environmental issues
Today’s society demands an agricultural industry responsible for reducing its water and carbon footprint and food waste, paving the way for innovative technological solutions for sustainable agriculture:
People are increasingly shifting away from animal products, opting instead for plant-based products that, besides being cruelty-free, are friendlier to the planet to produce.
Several startups currently produce plant-based meat and milk products, foods that aim to satisfy an ever-growing demand.
Digital management software
High-impact ventures have optimized their management and control through innovation to achieve more efficient crop management.
One good case is Sensix, an agronomic platform that uses innovations such as IoT, AI, and Big Data to help farmers make better decisions and predict productivity.
Reducing food waste
Data from the World Economic Forum indicated that around 931 million tons of food are wasted each year worldwide, a figure showing an insight into the impact of food waste today.
Fighting this problem requires consumers’ change (making better use of food) and producer change, extending the food’s lifespan.
PolyNatural understood this challenge and created Shel-Life®, a naturally derived coating that reduces dehydration in fruits and vegetables, thus prolonging their lifespan.
Several biotech-focused ventures have developed natural pesticides and fertilizers to improve crop quality and yields.
Myconativa is proof of this since, through a natural biofertilizer, indoor and outdoor plants absorb water better, growing healthy without applying harmful elements.
Solutions such as the above are setting the standard in the food-tech industry, boosting profitability and sustainability in the processes, and improving the positioning of products among consumers who are more aware of what they eat.
How has the food-tech sector evolved in Latin America?
According to the study The Foodtech Landscape in Latin America, conducted by Endeavor and PepsiCo in 2021, since 2011, food-tech ventures in the region have raised more than US$ 1.7 billion through 206 venture capital investment rounds.
The report states that there are 31 emerging and growing food tech companies in Chile (data from 2021), 71% of which have had access to financing. Such is the growth of this ecosystem in the country that, since 2011, national agtech startups have collected US$ 348 million.
It should be noted that according to the report “Impact Report Endeavor 2020: “When an economy is in crisis, entrepreneurs push it,” Endeavor Chile entrepreneurs generated US$ 101 million in 2020 alone, demonstrating the sector’s success.
Agtech/foodtech success cases
Although there are several national ventures setting trends in the agtech/food tech sector, there are some worth highlighting due to their impact on the industry:
A high-impact Company that has positioned itself in the market with its innovative product Shel-Life®, a 100% natural coating for fruits and vegetables that prevents dehydration and keeps the products fresh for a longer time.
The company has raised US$ 800 thousand in venture capital, allowing it to expand into other markets, like the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Protera developed an innovation that uses a predictive algorithm to identify and create new proteins of non-animal origin to address current and future food challenges.
In 2021, this venture closed a Series A financing round for US$ 10 million. Its investors include the Bimbo group and Sofinnova Partners, a leading European venture capital firm specializing in health and sustainability.
It is a food-tech company producing bioprocessed ingredients from fermentation technology to generate a vegetable protein with high nutritional value and a flavor enhancer that reduces the use of salt.
The company raised US$ 700,000 in funding in 2020 through Angel Ventures and Endurance Investment, thanks to its solutions’ potential.
Investment in farm tech is moving forward quickly, and 2022 promises to be a great year for these ventures. When 64% of venture capital funds increase their investment, many agtech/food-tech companies can leverage their solutions, which are fundamental to boosting sustainability in the sector.
PolyNatural has become one of the companies with the most significant impact on the market with its product Shel-Life®. To date, it has prevented the waste of 840 tons of fruit while saving 880,750 thousand m³ of water, promoting sustainability in an increasingly demanding market.