Why Musk is Venturing into the Argi-Tech Industry

The advent of agriculture was one of the most important turning points in human history. The word ‘agriculture’ comes from the Latin word agricultūra, which means to cultivate the field.

The whole reason humans formed civilisations was thanks to agriculture. More people than ever before were able to concentrate in pockets across the world.

This revolution took place some 105,000 years ago. And until recently, most of the world performed agriculture as it was done thousands of years ago. Sure, farmers have tractors, self-irrigating crops, drones and devices to measure everything. But, at the core, they still cultivate the land.

We are now at a turning point.

Bringing the farm to you

Technology is completely changing how we look at arable land. We are no longer restricted to growing plants in the ground. In fact, we don’t even have to grow plants in soil. We can enhance plants with chemicals to be more resistant to disease. We can grow plants in whatever climate we want, even Antarctica.

That’s just hydroponics, you might say.

But that’s not what I’m referring to. A traditional hydroponics facility is fixed. It can’t move anywhere. Instead, I’m talking about picking up the facility and moving it anywhere you want in the world.

As in finance, manufacturing and mobility, technology is about to disrupt the food industry. And we are in the very early stages of what could be a highly lucrative industry.

Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk, is trying to completely change the way we eat. For over a decade, Kimbal has run two restaurant chains, The Kitchen and Next Door. They serve dishes made strictly with locally-sourced meat and veggies.

Now Kimbal is trying to bring local food to urban cores around the world. His latest venture, teaming up with Tobias Peggs, is called Square Roots. The program consists of providing 10 steel shipping containers to young entrepreneurs in Brooklyn, New York.

Square Roots could develop the next generation of farmers. Each container has vertical, soil-free farms under LED lights.

Each container can produce the same amount of crops as two acres of outdoor farmland. And there’s no farming experience needed.

Last year, 24-year-old Josh Aliber was recovering from a concussion. While out of commission, he learnt about urban farming from a podcast. He started researching from his bed and found out about the Square Roots program.

He now runs his own specialty herb business out of shipping containers. Aliber can control everything from oxygen levels to humidity — all of which affect the plants’ taste and texture. They use 10 gallons of recycled water a day, less than the average person’s shower.

But imagine multiple mobile farms in cities across the world. It would completely change how we source and transport our food. Not to mention improving the quality and freshness of food in general.

An opportunity you might not want to miss

Lots of other companies are joining the food revolution. Agri-tech business Abundant Produce Ltd [ASX:ABT] is one such company. Their goal is to help farmers increase crop yields and decrease energy inputs. They do it through their gene-enhanced seeds.

ABT doesn’t use chemicals to improve crops. Instead, they breed their seeds to produce healthier and tastier tomatoes and cucumbers.

From here, ABT is looking to pursue opportunities to develop their base plant IP. One of the main activities includes ‘identifying further species of vegetables to investigate and begin breeding/improving,’ according to chairman Tony Crimmins.

But ABT is just one of many companies capitalising on agriculture. You’ll likely see more start-ups venturing into the agri-tech sector soon. 2016 was a standout year for miners. Maybe 2017 could be the year for the argi-tech companies.


Härje Ronngard,

Junior Analyst, Money Morning

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