Producing more with less: six fruit and vegetable technologies with high growth potential
It is a fact that in the near future we will have to produce more fruits and vegetables with with less resources.
The horticulture of the future will have:
- less water
- less land (due to competition with urban or protected natural value),
- less fertilizer (due to oil price increases)
- less petroleum-based plastics (for the same reason)
- less chemicals available (due to minimum residue regulation - minimum waste) and
- less labor
At the same time the demand for horticultural products will grow at the same time that population grows (especially in Asia). The demand for quality will be higher, requesting better tasting products, better appearance and longer shelf life.
Some technology companies are well positioned to capitalize on these trends in the near future and grow at a faster rate than the rest of the economy.
Here are six of these technology areas that we believe are excellent candidates as potential investment growth.
• Biological control Biological control is a general term that includes several tools:
o The use of beneficial insects, nematodes, fungi or bacteria to control insects
or the use of fungi or bacteria for disease control
o The use of fungal pathogens to control weeds
The biological control market is growing rapidly (> 10% / year) due to the pressure to reduce pesticide use per hectare and the requirements of supermarkets worldwide to deliver fruit to the consumer with zero residue level.
• Irrigation technology The automation of irrigation and the use of biosensors to optimize water management are two aspects of this technology, which allows exact dosing of water and fertilizer with no waste. Another aspect of water management is sanitary engineering which allows the safe recycling of gray water for irrigation
• Geographic information systems to reduce input use. Traditionally inputs, especially fertilizers, are applied in the field following a fixed recipe per hectare, regardless of soil fertility or the ability of the soil to absorb nutrients. Geographic information systems incorporate soil fertility levels, and allow the dosage of fertilizers.
• Disease prediction models. Weather Stations connected to databases by mobile phone are used for real-time online data transmission. Spore traps indicate the levels of inoculum and favorable conditions for infection. Sampling of early infection in the field indicates potential infection in the coming days. In this way can significantly reduce fungicide applications in the field, and prevent major infections, thus saving aresources and avoiding losses.
• Mechanical harvest aid. For over 20 years robot prototypes have been built to replace field labor. These attempts have not been very successful, especially due to failure in recognizing fruit in between the foliage of plants. A more simple and more technically feasible approach is the development of mechanical aids for harvest, so as to expedite the work of field staff and to reduce picking costs.
•Biodegradable bioplastics The use of petroleum-based plastics in agriculture has allowed early crop production in areas of temperate climate. But at the end of the harvest, these residues are left without a way of recycling. Recently developed PLA-based plastics (polylactic acid) usig biomass waste as substrate could replace the current non-biodegradable plastics. Since they are natural and do not consume oil, they are biodegradable, do not need to be picked up and can be incorporated into the field as organic matter.
These six technologies offer great potential for development, both as an entrepreneur and investor, with the possibility of high returns, given the prospects for future development in horticulture worldwide.
Copyright 2011 Dr. Manuel Madrid,