Investment in AgTech: It's About Survival

By Robin Saluoks


Robin Saluoks

Robin Saluoks

Robin Saluoks is the co-founder and CEO of eAgronom, a ClimateTech startup transforming the voluntary carbon offset market and accelerating the transition to net-zero. Founded in Estonia in 2016 as a Farm Management Software (FMS), the company is one of the leading AgTech companies in the Baltics and Poland.

The words agriculture and technology were words not frequently used together as recently as five years ago, but today the area is brimming with innovation and booming with investment. So much so that the global Agtech market is forecast to grow by nearly 20 percent annually, rising to USD 32.5BN by 2027. The reason investors are circling the scene is that the traditional societal, political and economic value systems are being challenged and AgTech is emerging as one of the most future-proof investments. Crucially, unlike a lot of technology that is developed to make our lives more convenient in one way or another, AgTech will play a big role in ensuring our actual survival on planet earth. 

Transforming an industry in the face of multiple crises

Agriculture is an industry in dire need of innovation and cleaning up its act. It’s the cause of 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the US and the EU alone and is responsible for inexcusable damage to the environment and wildlife. However, whilst the climate crisis is a mammoth challenge that for far too many seems too monumental to tackle, the Russian war with Ukraine represents an immediate threat and a major trigger for an accelerated shift in agricultural practices for many reasons: Russia is the world’s biggest wheat exporter, Ukraine is the 5th largest. Coupled with Russia being a major fertilizer and gas exporter, the prospect of a global food crisis is very real with war already starting to disrupt the beginning of the grain season in Ukraine. 

Working within an industry facing such fundamental and immediate challenges, a wholesale shift to more sustainable agricultural practices that reduce the need for chemicals, increase yield and decrease wastage and emissions has never been more urgent. From developments in indoor farming systems, smart sensors, soil testing, autonomous vehicles, alternative feed supplies, and soil sequestration to name but a few, one of the world’s most traditional and low-tech industries is now a hotbed for innovation like no other. 

Soil - the ultimate treasure trove 

Taking up 11 per cent of the globe’s land surface, arable land used for crop production represents a crucial component for ensuring our life on earth. Unfortunately, the exploitation of soil through pesticides, fertilizers and overworking is causing immense damage to our ecosystem. However, soil sequestration techniques have the potential to turn this aspect of agriculture, which currently causes immeasurable harm, into an ecosystem preserver instead. Interestingly, in this area, technology is helping farmers go back to the older and gentler ways of working the land, whilst developing new techniques to increase yield as well as providing a new income stream in the form of carbon credits. 

In fact, soil is becoming a very precious commodity. The carbon offset market is expected to explode by a magnitude of 100 within the next eight years as pressure builds on private sector organizations to slash their carbon emissions. While reducing emissions needs to be priority number one, residual emissions, which are very difficult or even impossible to eliminate with existing tools, are a key target for offsetting. Since accusations of greenwashing continue to haunt the offsetting industry, it is important to focus on high-quality projects that are traceable, transparent, measurable and additional, making soil sequestration an obvious target. 

With many farmers struggling to secure the investment required to adapt more sustainable farming techniques, onboarding them to carbon projects by pre-selling carbon credits will become an important finance mechanism. At the same time, technology to monitor, measure and validate carbon projects will complete the carbon market circle. 

Startups: the garage is now a barn

If you had told a computer science graduate from the early noughties that their first boss would be a farmer, would they have laughed in your face? Most probably, as back then everyone was flocking to the holy land that was Silicon Valley. However, with our future in the balance, the young generation in particular is looking for ways to ensure our world’s survival, with agriculture representing a big slice of the pie. Whilst the powers that be are still paralyzed with indecision about fighting climate change, on the ground an army of busy startups are putting an arsenal in place. Hence for those looking for a future-proof investment, there are worse places to look at than AgTech.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.