Digital agriculture and food tech – what’s new?
Earlier this month, I represented Ericsson at the international conference Sweden Foodtech Big Meet, a key event around the idea of building a next-generation food system based on tech, data, sustainability and health. Katarina Luhr, Stockholm’s vice mayor, opened the conference with a speech that stressed the importance of sustainable food and agriculture in the urbanization of today and tomorrow.
Sweden Foodtech’s long-term ambition is to build the world’s premier system for positive development of the food sector based on digital transformation and entrepreneurship. Key players include representatives of the current food system, research institutes, investors (including venture capitalists), global information and communication technology companies and new entrepreneurs shaping the future of food.
Ericsson’s position, solutions and ecosystem for partners
At Ericsson we are convinced that standardized technologies such as the 3GPP mobile technology standard are critical to be able to scale and replicate innovative digital agriculture and food tech solutions. Our primary focus in this area is on giving different kinds of service providers access to IoT technologies and sustainable use cases that build on standardized NB-IoT (narrowband Internet of Things) and Cat-M1 connectivity in operator networks.
Ericsson also has an IoT partner ecosystem that runs on our IoT Accelerator platform, to ensure that all offerings are standardized, scalable and interoperable. IoT device and application partners can present themselves under their own brand and offer a variety of use cases to service providers that will package and offer them to their enterprise end-customers.
Automated quality analysis of food
Intello Labs, one of Ericsson’s device and application partners, was one of the many entrepreneurs that had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas during Sweden Foodtech Big Meet. Intello Labs provides advanced image recognition technology that can recognize objects, faces, flora, and fauna, and tag them in any image. High-performance deep-learning algorithms are at the center of this technology, upon which a new generation of intelligent applications are being built for applications including agriculture, e-commerce, advertising, manufacturing and curation. Intello Labs’ automated quality analysis of food product images has proven to be an accurate and reliable method for grading fresh products (fruits, grains, vegetables, cotton, etc.) characterized by color, size and shape.
Key reflections on the conference
I was impressed by just how much the area of digitalized agriculture and food has expanded and grown in the past 1-2 years. A few examples that stood out the most for me include advances in sensor technologies, urban farming, projects to reduce food waste, projects to increase traceability, nanotechnologies that can support increased production of healthy, nutritious food, and highly efficient plant-growing methodologies that mimic the best from nature in controlled environments.
My key takeaways from the conference are that the pace of innovation is great, entrepreneurs will be important changemakers, and standardized technology will be vital to scale most of the ideas. A variety of new players are entering the food sector from new angles, uprooting the traditional notions of power and position. I think that’s a very good thing, and I look forward to the next steps!