Agtech innovation breeds growing investor interest for Roots Sustainable
Food & Agriculture
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Investment in global agriculture and food technology start-ups passed $13 billion last year – a 29 per cent increase in funding volume compared to the previous year.
But the sector is more than just bigger tractors and better fertilisers – novel farming systems are now one of the highest growth areas for investment according to a report by AgFunder.
Investment in the category jumped 233 per cent this year to $850 million across 57 deals – representing 6 per cent of the year’s total.
The category includes indoor farming, aquaculture, insect and algae production — and technology like root zone heating and cooling tech from Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technology (ASX:ROO).
Co-founder and chief Sharon Devir says agriculture innovation is needed as the world grapples with solving potential food shortages.
“Agtech is the pivotal development we can do today to ensure that we have enough food for the future global population,” he says.
“Whether innovative aquaculture or on land – the focus needs to be on increasing yields with current resources of land and water in a sustainable way.”
Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technology’s root zone temperature optimisation system.
The same sentiment was echoed recently in an Australian agriculture white paper, setting a lofty target of doubling the nation’s farm production to $100 billion by 2030 and targeting agtech to do so.
“Agriculture is our future. It’s often seen as being an old-fashioned industry and it has been around a long time, as long as civilisation — but it is technologically advanced, and becoming more so,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at the paper’s launch in March.
Turning Ag upside-down
When it comes to innovation, the Israeli-based Roots team knows what they’re talking about, tackling root zone temperature optimisation and irrigation by condensation quite literally from another angle.
“When it comes to targeting the root’s temperature and water needs we believe we are the first in the planet to do so, especially on this commercial scale,” Dr Devir said.
The novel root zone heating and cooling approach brings with it reduced energy use as it utilises energy from the ground – Dr Devir estimating a three-fold increase in efficiency.
When seasons change, Roots system easily transitioning from heating to cooling providing optimum growing temperature of each crop year round.
Dr Devir likens it to a split-system air conditioner.
“Most technology in the industry now is ‘either/or’. It either uses combination of air, water and mist for canopy cooling and ventilating or heating canopy with significant expenditures. But once farmers install our Root Zone Temperature Optimisation (RZTO) technology we cool and heat the roots in one sustainable system,” he told Stockhead.
In the water
Roots is also in the early commercialisation stage of “Irrigation-by-Condensation” technology.
It is a stand-alone, solar-operated water-cooling and circulation system that runs cold water in closed-loop pipes.The humidity is condensed on the external surface of the pipes, flowing by gravity to the roots.
Five crops were grown recently with just the humidity in the air — and that’s only the beginning.
Roots was founded in 2012 as a graduate from the Israeli Office of the Chief Scientist’s incubator program which is spawning a burgeoning agtech industry.
More than 460 active Israeli agtech companies are tracked by Start-Up Nation Finder, a local innovation discovery platform.
More than 25 per cent were founded in the last five years, and 50 per cent over the last ten – showing a sector experiencing a boom of new ideas.
All this in a country roughly the size of Fiji – with some two-thirds as desert and 14 per cent arable land.
In perhaps some of the harshest temperatures Roots has tested its technology, and has now deployed systems in Australia, China and Spain with more to come.
This special report is brought to you by Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies.
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