Trimble, a location-based services company with its own precision agriculture offering dubbed “Connected Farm,” recently announced multiple acquisitions of companies in the space. The company announced that it acquired the assets of two sister companies, RainWave and Hydro-Engineering Solutions, focused on rainfall and watershed monitoring services respectively. In a separate release on the same day, Trimble also announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire IQ Irrigation, a New Zealand-based GPS-enabled precision irrigation firm. Joe Denniston, Trimble’s VP of Agriculture, said, “With the solution, farmers can more efficiently utilize water by delivering the right amount of water to where it’s needed. By also staying apprised of other critical information via the Connected Farm dashboard – such as rainfall data and weather forecasts – farmers can make more informed irrigation decisions for their operations.”
What We Think
Through these acquisitions and its continued development of the Connected Farm platform, Trimble is making inroads toward establishing itself as a key precision irrigation player in an extremely crowded space. Many companies with offerings in precision agriculture, like John Deere, J. R. Simplot, and Monsanto, have significant market share in the space, but increasing competition and increased farmer adoption are set to grow the precision agriculture market substantially in developed and developing countries, making space for new players to successfully enter the fray. Companies not already focused on possible opportunities in precision agriculture should pay close attention to this and other similar acquisitions in the space. Those companies with any existing precision agriculture capabilities should take notice and look for partnership and acquisition opportunities including advanced irrigation, weather forecasting, input control, and crop monitoring technologies.
As established players have known for years, food and beverage is a multi-trillion-dollar industry with relatively minor variations in water quality and regulatory requirements. Moving forward, major societal drivers are pressing both industry and agriculture toward novel water solutions.
To control water risk, the food industry is expanding its focus beyond processing plants to water savings across the value chain. With deeper pockets and a better market-oriented grasp of costs than municipal water, this industry is rich with opportunity for technologies that can reduce water needs, promote reuse, and efficiently pretreat wastewater for discharge. The industry will be forced as never before to listen both to downstream retailers concerned about sustainability and upstream agriculture that makes up much of their water risk.
The range of applicable technologies is as diverse as the opportunity is large, demanding an analytical framework – the Lux Innovation Grid – for understanding all the emerging innovative entities in the space. Focused solutions are rife, from crop like AquaSpy and UgMO that use moisture sensors and crop knowledge to monitor field conditions and Capilix’s capillary electrophoresis sensor technology for monitoring hydroponics systems, to production plant where the likes of Bilexys and Emefcy look to apply their variants on microbial fuel cells to generate chemicals or energy from process wastewater.
The overall takeaway is clear. With increasing trepidation about population growth in the face of climate change, and increasing world affluence driving more water-intensive foods, industry demand for novel solutions from farm to factory have just begun to accelerate.