What does the future hold for Agritech?

30 Apr, 2024

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What does the future hold for Agritech?

With the expected population of the UK to be 73.7 million by 2036 and increased pressure to reach net zero by 2050, how does the Agriculture industry fair when challenged with growing populations, climate change, sustainability goals and resource inefficiencies?

With the expected population of the UK to be 73.7 million by 2036 and increased pressure to reach net zero by 2050, how does the Agriculture industry fair when challenged with growing populations, climate change, sustainability goals and resource inefficiencies? 

Joined by Emilio Loo Monardez from WMG, our host Alex Edwards leads the conversation on the impact innovative technologies will have on the sector, and whether it will be enough.


  • What is AgriTech? (01:05)
  • What technology does AgriTech include? (02:21)
  • How have challenges in the industry changed over time? (04:14)
  • What does AgriTech cover? (06:09)
  • How do we combat the challenges? (10:52)
  • Are there challenges culturally? (25:12)
  • Are larger companies involved in the change? (30:43)
  • Over the next 5-10 years, what opportunities excite you the most? (37:55)


Items referenced in this episode:

Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG)

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Alex Edwards 00:05

Hello and welcome to the Protolabs inspirON exchange podcast, the show for engineers and designers to connect with industry leaders and academics to learn more about what’s happening in the industry, how to innovate, and the opportunities that lie ahead. Today, I’d like to focus on agriculture and more specifically AgriTech. With a mainstream spotlight on the challenge of feeding a growing population against a backdrop of climate change, sustainability goals and resource inefficiencies, I want to find out how much of an impact innovative technologies will have, and whether they will be enough.

I’m joined today by Emilio Loo Monardez, Lead Engineer at WMG University of Warwick, who led the creation of AgriTech WMG and led the launch of Warwick AgriTech. He’s currently leading over 7 AgriTech projects and has been actively working on projects to support the UK with innovative and affordable ideas to support farmers and sustainable food production. Great to have you with us today Emilio.


Emilio Loo Monardez 01:03

Thank you.


Alex Edwards 01:05

So let’s jump right in, I suppose we’ll start at the very beginning. I’m no expert in this field so let’s start with, what is agritech?


Emilio Loo Monardez 01:17

I think that is probably the most simplest question but at the same time has different definitions. By definition, AgriTech is the use of technology in agriculture, so that’s covering agriculture, horticulture, forestry, etc. to improve GL, efficiency, produce more with less, get more output, etc. So technology you can apply to agriculture, by definition. For me, just a mechanism that the human being has to protect themselves from being eliminated, probably apocalyptic, but in the sense this is the mechanism we have to produce more with the knowledge we have. So, AgriTech has very meaningful terminology if you want to use for the current challenge we have in agriculture.


Alex Edwards 02:21

So what sort of technology are we talking about? Is it robotics? Is it more around efficiency so getting more out of what we have? Is it physical technology or software, or both?

Emilio Loo Monardez 02:36

So when we talk about AgriTech we normally think about AI, robotics, automation, perception sensing technologies, gene editing plants as well. But the definition also includes any technology that can give you that efficiency – it could be a tractor, it could be any machines. Currently we are living the fourth agricultural revolution, so we tend now to link any technology with industry 4.0, now we talk about industry 5.0, so we are bringing in the technology that humans are developing now to be applied in agriculture. We’re talking about all the Internet of Things and everything related with AI and machine learning process. But we don’t want to forget that AgriTech has always been with humans, because we have had technology at different scales during all ages of the human race. The first revolution started 10,000BC when we changed from hunting and gathering for society in a settlement. So there we have the first technology, to see how they can produce food as a settlement and that’s the first AgriTech thing to happen with technology until today where we are applying machine learning to be capable of identifying infestation of pests.


Alex Edwards 04:14

It’s a really interesting point because I think when I was doing a bit of research and when we were chatting offline, it’s an age-old concept isn’t it? Like you said, it’s always been pivotal for us to get food and manage our food and make it sustainable.

So as we’ve grown along with technology, would you say that the challenge has changed? Is it now about creating more or being efficient with what we have, or both? Because we know there’s a growing population.


Emilio Loo Monardez 04:47

Yeah that’s a very interesting point. The human being has always been trying to be more efficient, it’s in our nature. So trying to produce or sustain initially to try to survive, given all the challenges they have, with wars and pests. And then we have, for example, in Serbia what we call the bioengineering or green revolution, where they are trying to introduce high geo varieties, how we could grow more and so on. But currently the challenges we are facing are unprecedented because, as you mentioned, the growing population need be fed. So expect by 2040 there to be 10 billion people, so how are we going to do it if we are not capable to change our practices? We won’t then be capable to tackle the challenge. So here we speak about producing more, and at the same time we need to be capable of reducing waste as much as possible.

If we can’t do it, we will struggle in the future. So we need to be capable to have a cost effective solution that can be applied in the most sustainable way possible.


Alex Edwards 06:09

There’s various trends at the moment, there’s different consumer demands and different diets like veganism and vegetarianism, is AgriTech limited to livestock, animals, meat, or does it cover vegetables and those sorts of things too?


Emilio Loo Monardez 04:47

Actually AgriTech applies to all sectors, so that’s livestock, horticulture (indoor and outdoor), forestry. AgriTech is not limited at all to livestock, it is very broad terminology, so it’s any technology you can apply in the sector. I think now, the big challenge is probably in horticulture because we have all the problems related to climate change and the pressure to be more healthy. Just talking about the UK, the supply chain of the UK is in high demand from abroad, so we still need 40% of fresh vegetables to come from abroad, 80-85% of fruits also come from abroad. So our fresh food supply chain is very highly dependent from abroad and then when you explore who the main players are, so Netherlands, France, Spain, and we’ve all seen the situation because of climate change in Spain. 65% of Spain is in risk, where 1/3 of that could be added in the future. So if we know where fruits and fresh food come from in Spain, the majority is from the South and St Lucia and those areas, and all of those areas are the ones suffering from water and soil degradation. So if the climate change situation continues where we continue to rise 2 – 2.5 degrees, hopefully never 3 degrees. If we do calculation and resource estimates and don’t agree that we can make a change, there is a chance we can get to even 3 degrees, and then that will be massively problematic for humanity. If we reach 2 degrees, this will still be a big problem and we have seen now what happened during the last winter in the UK, where it was a little bit warmer than normal, and the last summer in Europe was considerably high, Spain especially suffered with heat waves. So the situation around agriculture in our supply chain is not easy. In terms of livestock, the UK has a very good reputation for livestock land and cows, etc. but AgriTech, especially now, is urgently needed to be applied to fresh food and also regulation policies that need to be put in place.

Currently, we need to work coordinated. No one has the truth here. I have seen some companies, that are very proud of what they do and they’ve doing an amazing effort, but it’s one piece of a one-million-piece puzzle that we need to make a change. So here we need universities, companies, robotics developers, plan developers, associations, local councils, we need everyone coordinated across a vision. We have new Agri centres, the Agri centres need to maximise their collaboration with others and other organisations to make sure that we are tackling problems coordinated to resolve the problem. We know the people that work in this area, they know where the problems are. We know about crop nutrition, crop protection, soil health, etc. so we need to coordinate the effort to make sure that we can tackle and maximise the government resources as well.


Alex Edwards 10:52

It’s a massive issue isn’t it? Like you say, it’s something we can’t put off for much longer. It’s great to see that there’s people like yourselves that are trying to make a difference. So in terms of day-to-day then, what does the fight look like? What are you up to, what projects are you working on?


Emilio Loo Monardez 11:15

At Warwick AgriTech, which is an entity in the University of Warwick, I would like to explain about the joint entity between the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and the School of Life Sciences. So we have combined engineering with plant scientists to tackle the problem. We strongly believe that the problem we are facing in agriculture won’t be faced only from one side. So, if we engineers use industry 4.0, industry 5.0, AI, everything else that gets put in place, it’s not going to work. I mean, not from my perspective at least. We need plant scientists because where we are working is with plants, which are organisms that are alive. And there’s a lot of science behind that and we need to be able to understand the most efficient way to apply technology to the target, which is again an organism. It could be a pest, a disease, a plant, livestock – all things that are alive. So we need to understand what happens because one day could be different than the other. I used to say that in manufacturing we are strong in manufacturing, we are WMG manufacturing group right? You can leave a bearing at the lab for a week and nothing will happen, but if you leave unattended strawberries, probably after a week without nothing, that will be that. It’s as simple as that. So the pressure is you need to be there all the time, so we strongly believe that joining these entities is the best and most efficient way to understand the problem now and understand what we need to do in the future to make a real change.

So at Warwick AgriTech we build a strategy with clear vision of what we want to do. And our vision is very simple. We want to contribute to secure the food production without destroying the planet. And also we want to support sustainability as much as possible. So we’re talking about food and sustainable practices.

From the food perspective, we mentioned before, the need to produce 50% more food by 2050 without destroying the planet, because in this challenge and journey to produce more food we can really destroy our land or we can use more and more land, but if we continue with current practices we will need land the size of Russia to feed the population by 2050. So we can’t do that because it’s just too massive, so then when the science comes into play, it is fascinating because we look at how we can be efficient in every square metre to produce the food we need. But at the same time we have all the challenges around climate change that have high impact on crops, because now with different temperatures we have more diseases and more pests. The yield can be affected in certain crops if it’s too warm or too cold. The same practices and expertise for the growers have been challenged because they’ve been producing with certain parameters of data for a long time so they know what to expect. But now, I’m working on some projects within forestry and this winter was particularly wet, with a lot of rain, so they cannot harvest the trees when it’s raining because they will destroy the tree, the plant. So they delayed the season meaning that they couldn’t deliver to the end user on time, or they really struggled and were challenged and needed to work in completely different hours to be capable to harvest and then do the next process they needed. So these challenges are happening now. We are seeing the challenge, and it’s happening now. It’s not a terminator movie, this is happening now.

We are seeing a big challenge in the sector, climate change has impact on pests and diseases, as the weather becomes warmer and wetter, these are the perfect conditions to increase diseases. So we have created this vision of how we can be sustainable and support biodiversity, which is needed. They’re voiceless, right? The animals are voiceless. Who will protect them? We need to produce more food, so lets harvest, lets plant on more land, but this is a habitat. There are animals living there. I’ve been discussing with another researcher from Durham University, he’s doing an interesting project with Corvus, a bird that is in danger now. They mainly live in open field and now we are using more for agriculture, who’s protecting them? So how can we grow more food without destroying the planet? We are destroying the biodiversity, destroying soil with the introduction of more chemicals, and so on. So when you see that you say “okay, let’s do it” and then we change focus to business and we say “okay, so who has all the pressure here?” And all pressure is on the grower and their need to be more sustainable. The growers need to be cheaper. The growers need to produce the food we need, in the quantity we need, by the time we need. They need to reduce the quantity of chemicals. And then they need to pay their bills at the end of month.

It’s a big pressure and then when we move up the supply chain, we say we want the product now, we want it to appeal to the end user, so we put it in a tray with a net, we don’t want the stem in the strawberry, we want everything perfect. And because this is how the supermarket and the end user wants to see the fruit, there’s more pressure behind it. Ultimately, this leads to a lot of stress in the supply chain and that’s not just around the food, so livestock, fresh food, it’s also forestry, transportation. So when you have a situation like this, you build a strategy, which is based on what areas we need to tackle and where we can put our efforts. So we aim to tackle soil health, 63% of the soil in Europe has been degraded. Not that different in the UK, little bit better, but is degraded. With no healthy soil, there’s no high yield and we need to be capable to continue producing, right? So there should be regenerative agriculture. There should be new practices, technologies to reduce the damage to soil, less intensive harvesting, and so on. We need to distribute practices from plant science in how to let soil rest before planting new things, how to scout or monitor crop, how we could contribute to the yield crop protection we’ve spoken about – pest diseases, crop health. We’re talking about how we can contribute to the crop being as healthy as possible and everything related with precision harvesting, precision planting, this is where we talk about picking fruits, pruning, we’re talking about how we can precisely plant something. It’s reducing the need to perform tedious tasks, releasing the need of labour shortage, for example.

Also we aim to help around a supportive system around biodiversity and autonomous and connected operations, so in a sense, it’s applying our capabilities that we have in WMG and the School of Life Sciences related to AgriTech which is around robotics, AI manipulation, perception sensing, smart or managed vehicle data for plant science, agronomy, crop protection, integrated pest management, soil health, etc.

We have a project at the moment that we’re working on related to integrated crop scouting. So we are identifying insects for crops because we really would like to tackle the pressure on crop protection and we know that 20-25% of the crop is lost because of pests and diseases. So we need to be more productive but at the same time we need to reduce the waste, so we’re trying to tackle that. We are working on crop health to understand plant stress and crop growing to see how we could reduce crop losses. Supporting agronomist in the environment, in greenhouses. So we have robots in place collecting data that will then be shared with agronomists and supervisors so they can highlight spots with problems and the supervisors can acknowledge the places highlighted by the robot as requiring attention. So we’ll reduce the dependency on the human in this case. It’s very interesting because we’re talking about human and robot collaboration. We know that there’s some tasks that are too difficult for the robot because it’s so complex and you need to really invest a lot of money for certain checking. For example, go to a lettuce, open it up and check the root because you need to check the colour, but this would be too complex and highly expensive. But other tasks such as monitoring, you can really capture a lot of data, which is much more effective than the human eye. So if the robot can capture all of this data and share that with a highly experience human, you have the best combination. It’s not about replacing humans or not, it’s how we can effectively collaborate between humans and robots to get the perfect return on investment and efficiency.

That’s something that we are now discovering and working on in Warwick AgriTech because our main objective when doing projects is how the green health of the future should look like. We’re talking about efficiencies and infrastructures of greenhouse, that’s one concept. The concept is that we look at the future of agriculture as a living factory. Super lean. So we’re transferring the knowledge we have in smart factories because in Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) we work with automation, aerospace, etc., how we can transfer that concept from a smart factory into agriculture. So then we get the concept of a living factory that’s as lean as possible. We know that currently the greenhouse is made for humans and not for robots, and now we are bringing robots into the greenhouse. The question we can ask immediately is, is that the best way to do it? At the moment, probably yes. Will that be the way to do it in 10 years? Probably. What about 15 years? Well we can start a debate around that, but what if we create greenhouses that are fully automated and they collaborate with humans in the areas where humans can really add value. And I think that given the situation, that is one of the important concepts to talk about.


Alex Edwards 25:12

It’s fascinating and I’m sat here listening thinking you’ve got to do all of this without destroying the world? That’s a challenge! While we’re on the topic of challenges, it all sounds positive to me but humans are quite often short term thinkers. Culturally, are you finding any challenges? You’ve mentioned, people often don’t like change and they’re seeing technology as a threat, and you’ve said it’s more about working with humans and collaborating with cobots rather than replacing anyone, but it seems from the outside farming is a traditional industry, so culturally is there any resistance or is everybody united?


Emilio Loo Monardez 26:06

I think the UK is a good country to be in for the revolution, historically the industrial revolution has become part of the culture in the UK. The revolution started in the UK so the mentality here, what I have seen myself, in different meetings with growers is that they are open to accept and they understand the importance of introducing technology. The UK, more of less, it’s never 100% in anything, but you have a high percentage of growers, people and culture that is ready to make this next step and more than 70% of the growers understand AgriTech and the technologies to try in the future and that they need to introduce these because they feel like it will be a big benefit. So that’s probably the other challenge around how they can understand the technology but I want to come back to your question, in the UK I believe it’s a nice place to be for the AgriTech revolution.

When you move a little bit from here to other countries, even close so in Europe, the situation is not the same. I had the chance to be in Spain last year and the situations different. They are more resistant to see robots, with the idea to have automation and robotic solutions in field and greenhouses, some growers, they perceive it is as a no go. And you go to other countries you will something similar, which is they understand they need to do something but don’t 100% agree or are convinced that this is going to happen sooner or later meaning that there’s not a lot of money, budget, and funding available or schemes available to make the change, which is massive. If the government don’t really push the button here it will be difficult. There’s no way for a start up or an SME to get into this sector without contribution from schemes, from the government, or from anyone else like angel investors capable to put money in. They also need to contribute to risk because it’s a lot of risk for companies going into this, I would say new sector, further to one of the oldest sectors in the word, agriculture, from the beginning of humanity, we are now speaking in terms of industry 4.0 and how we can transfer technologies that we know are tested and proven in manufacturing or aerospace, and how we can transfer this effectively into AgriTech with robots that can cost 30, 40, 50 thousand. And if I want to build a new robot with new technology, they will spend six years development something. So it’s six years of risks.

I’ve been in contact with companies that have been developing for eight years already. They started around 2015 and only now are they ready for e-commerce. Highly effective and they’re doing an amazing job but they went through a big, large road to get there. They could do it in the UK because as I mentioned the mentality is there but in other places it’s more difficult.

The other problem we face in this sector is ageing. Growers, farmers, owners, they’re getting older and the new generation, they’re not really willing to do the same as their father and grandfather did. One of the partners we work with, they said they can’t see their business working because people don’t want to be there, they want to be the ones developing the technology, so they don’t want to be there in the winter, standing at all times. That’s the type of thing that is happening.


Alex Edwards 30:43

Yeah that rural urban migration, it’s causing issues in a lot of ways. Everyone’s migrating to cities and wanting to spend time there, but then the surrounding areas in the countryside, where all the work is being done, do people want to get involved?

You mentioned an interesting point there and it was something I wanted to ask you around start-ups getting involved and it’s not really possible without support from government and policies. It feels from the outside looking in, without any research on this, that optically it’s smaller, startup type businesses that are getting involved and none of the bigger, traditional manufacturers, the big players are involved. Firstly, is that even correct? And if it is, why do you think that is? Why do you think some of the larger companies don’t get involved, when you consider those longer development cycles and budgets, they shouldn’t be as much of an issue to them as it would a start-up business?

Emilio Loo Monardez 31:44

There are larger companies involved, especially with the services and product they offer. We have seen more robotic arms with new accessories that we’ve been capable to use in the field and we have companies like Google, NASA, Airbus, all big players that have been doing interesting research in the field. But I do understand what you mean, we need to see even more big players in the sector. I think this is happening and is being opened to new big players that have been asking to get involved in this sector but we have seen that John Deere, they are part of the big players, and they want to do more autonomy. They’ve been doing autonomy for a long time but more sensing technology.

But I also agree that we have seen a lot of startups and SMEs play a relevant role now in the sector and that’s true because when you have a large company, they probably have a well-defined portfolio of products and strategy, what they do and how they do it. So to enter a new sector, they need to diversify the business that they are good at and they’re already profitable. So the question is, do they want the risk? Do they want to invest in the sector? Would they like to see how its developed or do they want to be the big players? Or do they want to continue selling product but modify the ones they have now to have increased capability for others so they can continue doing what they’ve been successful and profitable at, and just modifying a little bit what they do to be used in the sector. So we have seen all of that and especially my last point where if there is another clear benefit for them or they will be profitable, without moving away from their vision and mission, then selling the product in the sector has been very good.

We have seen for instance companies where they have modified certain computers so they are more IP resistant to be able to be used in the sector because normally they do it in the warehouse or manufacturing but the same technology can be applied in the agriculture sector. We have also seen that they create departments, for example Airbus, Airbus have a Department for Agriculture, where they use satellites and technologies with AI so they can detect and have information about the field. It’s still being used in the aerospace sector but they have a department they can build from, that they started quite a long time ago, but they’re still in the area of what they do best. They are not going to diversify a lot until they really see the benefit. So who is taking the risk now? I would say we see a lot of startups and SMEs taking the risk. When they take more risks they can also get more revenue, but it’s a risky sector, it’s not easy when you need to pick fruit, you are dealing with something that is alive and it’s condition today will be different in three days. So you need to introduce AI systems capable of identifying where the food is located before picking, and that’s a lot of development time. You need software and AI engineers behind collecting data and checking problems they’re having. Robotic arms or manipulators need to be very precise going where the X Y and Z points that you have set, but all of that is a lot of research that takes time and every day you spend money, right? You need equipment and time. They are taking the risk. This is where we, at Warwick AgriTech, can really help because we have world class facilities in WMG and the School of Life Sciences, two hundred and 20 hectares for life science for greenhouses, open fields, etc. and technology where we can really prove things, we can work with those companies to say come here you don’t need to invest a lot, we have the facilities and we can work together to reduce the risk of your investment and provide you with ideas because at the start it’s very expensive, especially if you aren’t sure when an idea you have is good, but you need to go up the hill with your idea. Until it’s proven, no one will buy your idea and that’s the reality. But when you link with organisations like us and we work on that idea together we can really make it work and understand what’s not working. We have a special focus on startups and SMEs with a dedicated SME group in Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) where they understand what are the problems for SMEs, how can we help them go on that journey to transition from an idea to something feasible.

I think that’s what is the reality in the sector, it’s a mix. But I agree with you, we have seen a lot of startups and SMEs in the field.


Alex Edwards 37:55

It’s great to hear they are both involved and some of the companies that you named there, they’ll certainly be able to support and if we go from the start-up at the bottom to top down we should meet in the middle and hopefully get the job done. That’s very much a focus on here and now so just want to wrap up, what does the future look like do you think over the next 5-10 years? What developments are you most excited about within the industry as a whole and also for Warwick AgriTech?


Emilio Loo Monardez 38:44

We are facing an important challenge, and if I sound apocalyptic at the beginning, it’s not with the purpose to scare anyone, it’s just a reality. I think we all remember what happened when Covid-19 arrived, we had shortages on the shelves in supermarkets for example. But I think that was from our perspective, one of the first times we saw the food supply chain challenged and we know the food strategy of the UK they want to be more affordable, more resilient, accessible and healthy, so you have like four main objectives in the strategy but what are we more healthy? There’s still 3 million people with malnutrition and it’s insane the malnutrition level we have and that’s a big pressure on the NHS. A lot of cost for NHS treatments comes from malnutrition.

Then when we look at affordability, the horticulture product, the stock of fresh food, vegetables and fruits, it’s still in high inflation not returning to low levels as before. I agree inflation has been reduced considerably but we’re still not getting to the levels before Covid-19 and in the previous months fresh food is still high so that price is still the key factor. When you see how many people have no access to food in the UK wow that’s a big challenge. I think it was the UK parliament who issued a document saying that 15% of children still living in houses with food insecurity in the UK. Now let’s go to Africa, any other country, we’re talking about the UK! How?

Then we move to resilience. 40% of the supply chain in fresh food comes from abroad, 80% of the fruits supply chain comes from abroad. When you see the reality of fresh food it’s something that we need to care of now, if there’s any disruption in the supply chain of fresh food it’s a real problem. Now let’s move on from fresh food, let’s talk about forestry. We have a plan in the UK that by 2050 we need to have zero carbon emissions, it’s a net zero plan. So by 2050, no more. We have all the electrification situation, that’s fantastic, and they’re moving ahead. But on thing is, because the plant has two angles, one angle is we produce less or no CO₂. Everything electrified, everything perfect. But what do we do with all of the CO₂ that’s already in the environment, how can we sequestrate the carbon? There’s a concept called carbon sequestration that is mainly made by plants and trees. So if we don’t have more trees capable of doing the chemical process of photosynthesis, capable to capture CO₂, convert into biomass and capture it from them, and instead give oxygen back, if we don’t have more trees on fields and increase woodland, it will be a big problem as well. So this should be the two areas. So we need to plant 30,000 new hectares for 2050 onwards. The reality of that based on what the growers have told me is a bit far away of that and especially now you see what happened in Scottish Parliament, they decided to reduce the budget for forestry. This will have a big impact. So there are challenges when I look at the next 3 to 5 years. And the main thing is to be aligned, I would say that’s the main point. The UK government needs to be aligned with the plan they created. We need to see more funding available to continue contributing to the challenge. The challenge in the sector is not only about volatility, uncertainty or instability.  We have labour shortage, we’re still not having enough funding to apply for, we need more. If you compare the funding we have which has increased considerably, so thank you UK government for that, but we still need to be that that will be consistent in the future and hopefully continue increasing.

We have a water problem, can you believe that in the UK and the south? Growers are now saying that water and the price is now a new challenge. Climate change, and we’ve discussed that, the production cost. The raw materials for fertilising the seed itself and everything you need to produce fruits and plants is required. The high cost of technology. Yes we are developing AgriTech but there’s a big challenge there of whether our growers can afford the technologies. We need to remember that in the UK almost 90% of the industry, based on Defra data, is SMEs and the other 10% are large companies. Large companies in the agriculture sector produce 50%, so 10% of the industry produce 50%. And the other 90% that are SMEs produce the other 50% in agriculture. So we are talking about a universe of 2000 growers registered probably, and you can see there’s a lot of SMEs there, how many of them are capable to afford the technology? Just a robotic arm is about £20-30k, so for a picking robot around £50k. £50k for a family business, a small one. There’s no way. Are they going to hire an agronomist or a picking robot? So that’s the high cost of technology. We need to produce cost effective technologies that are capable of providing a return on investment. We need to be able to reduce the fragmentation of information in the sector, be capable of demonstrating what technologies are available, that they can really do the job, demonstrate to the growers and the industry that look this technology can do this job and is available and this will be your return on investment. So then in the next 2, 3, 5 years we will be in the position to say we are in the mass adoption stage. Our growers are adopting. We, universities and technology developers, are happy because we have fundings to apply our knowledge. This is a big challenge and a big thing.

I think probably another important point for me, I wanted to wait until the end for this, which is a big challenge in the industry and probably the world is social disconnection. This is bigger than agriculture, bigger than manufacturing, bigger than everything. The “I don’t care what happens on my left or right hand side”, “I don’t care if this chicken or this fruit comes with a tray, I want it to be shiny, I want it to be fully perfect and I want it to be in plastic”. They want to eat and they want to have it now. That mentality is really destroying our planet because the supply chain needs to be agile to give you more clothes because of fashion, right? You need to have the latest technology, the latest iPhone, the latest computer. I want the fruit, and I want to eat it now. If I don’t like it, I will put it in the trash. That’s social disconnection. It’s producing a lot of stress in the supply chain and for businesses who want to produce something more profitable are producing more and more. We as human beings need to understand that we need to be sustainable from here, from our brain. We need to be sustainable. Oh I’m using an electric car, amazing, but you change your clothes every single day. You have new clothes every week and you want to buy more and we need CO₂ to produce these clothes, right? You eat and eat and you don’t recycle anything. So because you have an electric car does not mean that you’re sustainable. Sustainability comes from our head and that social disconnection is really affecting us. And we’ll be always rushing if we are not capable as human beings to change our habits, to be more conscious of what we’re doing. This is probably philosophical and you probably know, Brian Cox, he says probably or at least in the Milky Way, there has not been any reference, any indication that there is other civilisations in the Milk Way. Probably we are the only ones. Can you understand the responsibility we have as a society to keep ourselves here and this planet? Because probably we are the only ones, and you see what’s happening now with wars, the planet now is unstable because of us. So we need food, we need water, we need animals, we need biodiversity. This is what makes life beautiful. So the responsibility of the government is a cosmic responsibility, Brian Cox normally says, and I agree with that. Because if we do the wrong thing, there will be no other civilisation in a million light years. So I think that is probably my final thoughts to this podcast. It’s a big responsibility, we need to work coordinated. We are living in a fascinating age with a lot of technology in Warwick AgriTech and we are bringing more technology, robotics and AI. My final message is probably get excited about a lot of these but don’t think that AgriTech is a solution. This is just a mechanism that we, the human, will use to be sure that we will continue to be sustainable on this planet. We need plants, our green areas they can help us not only remove CO₂ but when you have plants around your mental health is different, right? You just melt and you see beauty. Plants, animal biodiversity is the colour of life, so in Warwick AgriTech we are really trying to save the future of farming in that direction.


Alex Edwards 51:13

There’s certainly a role for all of us to play but you’re right it’s fascinating and fi we get it right it’s a great opportunity.

Thank you for sharing your insights today Emilio, I think we’ll have to have a catch up and see if some of the predictions for the future actually come to fruition. Thank you also to our listeners, don’t forget to subscribe to ensure you never miss an episode.


Emilio Loo Monardez 51:55

Thank you for the opportunity Alex and let’s be sustainable in everything we do. That’s the message.