Agribusiness is one of the most vital domains where smart technologies needs to be urgently applied. The pressures are enormous and include: rising global populations requiring more food, increased extreme weather events from climate change impacts that destroy crops, the exodus of young people from farming and rural communities to cities, and high levels of waste in our food and energy systems from traditional industrial and agricultural practices. Leveraging mobile, web and data technologies to disrupt current agricultural and food distribution systems is essential if we are going to be able to continue generating after healthy food for our urban populations.

So it is exciting to see a range of startups and businesses applying the FIWARE open source platform to create new technologies that address all parts of the food system.

There are four main functions of a healthy food system:

  • To produce food for citizens and livestock, and to process food so that it can be packaged and consumed, sometimes as raw products and sometimes as healthy processed goods

  • To distribute food, particularly from rural ‘food bowls’ to urban areas

  • To encourage healthy food consumption and a dynamic food culture, such as in restaurants and cafes

  • To manage food waste by reducing the amount of quality food that is thrown out, and by disposing of food scraps and waste after consumption in compost and organic ways.

Through our Accelerators FRACTALS, FInish, Smart Agrifood, FINODEX and others, more and more startups are applying FIWARE technologies to help optimize one part of the global food system. In this two-part blog post, we will look at ten of these amazing startups working to ensure healthy food continues to be accessible to all of us.

Food production and processing

SmartSilo: Feed for livestock is an important component of food production. Usually, livestock feed is stored in large silos, but these are vulnerable to water and other damage, and managing supply levels can vary and are difficult to monitor. Spanish startup Ubikwa Systems is building SmartSilo, a sensor-based system to monitor and optimize stock in the silos of livestock farms. More sustainable stock management can reduce CO2 emissions by 25%, and in Europe alone could save farms more than €2 billion a year, according to CEO, Jaume Gelada.

IrrigNet: IrrigNET sees one efficient and sustainable irrigation of the key challenges to successful crop production. Using sensors that measure soil moisture at various depths and air temperature, irrigNET can not only assess current environmental factors, but can also create automated ’recipes’ that trigger more efficient farming practices. For example, farmers can factor in expected rainfall and air temperature, and trigger irrigation watering automatically when soil moisture falls below a certain threshold. While systems can be set up automatically, realtime monitoring dashboards still give farmers control if they want to reset values at any time.

Agricolus: Agricolus aims to provide a complete system for managing pesticide and growth treatments for agricultural crops. Using sensors and external data collection, Agricolus can monitor early warning signs of pest risks, and can better manage the data that optimises scheduling of plant nutrients and planning systems. Agricolus can reduce unsustainable plant treatment scheduling by up to 20%,m reducing environmental risks, and their products have recently been taken up by the Umbria region of Italy to help them manage an early warning system to monitor and prevent risks from the olive fly pest.

Food distribution

Purveyance Solutions: Purveyance solutions uses FIWARE’s data storage, big data analytics, realtime data capacities and open APIs to create an analytics system for the fresh produce supply chain. Data is collected through applications, farmer data, and logistics and transport providers to provide real time reporting, forecasts risks to distribution that may impact on the expiration of fresh produce, and can help farmers and food produce suppliers optimize delivery to urban communities and market sellers.

SUR+: In our bizarre, consumer-based society, we have become so focused on the ideal of beauty that even our vegetables and fruit need to look perfect at all times! That means farmers end up throwing out a lot of bended cucumbers, oddly shaped peppers, misshaped apples, and strangely-angled carrots. By using FIWARE, SUR+ has created a two-sided platform marketplace where farmers can donate the food they are unable to sell because of the way it looks, and food banks can respond to donation offers quickly so that fresh produce is available to low income families who are living in food insecurity. SUR+ recently gave a talk about their work at a TEDx talk in Maastricht, that is available to watch online.

In part two of our blog post, we will look at startups working to apply smart technologies in food consumption and food waste and disposal using FIWARE as the key technology platform to create and build new smart agribusinesses.