The United Nations estimates that, by 2050, we will need to feed an additional 1.82 billion people on the planet, a 23% rise from the current global population. Two-thirds of this added population will be in Africa, asserts Tony Daltorio, growth stock expert and editor of Market Mavens.
Throw in worsening soil and water degradation (and water shortages), rising global demand for animal protein from the emerging economies, increased urbanization in developing countries leading to agricultural labor shortages as workers move to the cities, and the investment case is obvious.
The big question we humans face is: how will we be able to significantly boost global food production to feed billions more people, all while limiting pressures on our natural environment?
A major part of a solution to this massive problem must be an all-out effort to increase farm automation. This move toward the automation of agriculture has just begun to gather momentum.
The roll-out of robotics, drones, and computer vision software is transforming agriculture as farmers attempt to strike that delicate balance between the need for increased yields and taking care of the environment.
The agricultural automation roll-out is being aided by the arrival of 5G technology. For example, 5G enables drones to transmit high-definition images of agricultural land, as well as monitor livestock and engage in pest control.
In this new age of automation, or “precision agriculture,” on the farm, data becomes crucial. The data gathered is used to help farmers make more efficient use of their land, water, and fertilizer. It is gathered by the aforementioned drones, along with satellites and “smart” farm equipment.
Data collection is the fuel for technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which are becoming more and more crucial to the global agricultural industry every day. With all of these trends, you now have ideal conditions for companies that make advanced agricultural equipment.
The leading company in agtech is Deere & Co. (DE), which announced not long ago that its fully autonomous tractor is ready for large-scale production. It's a pretty cool tractor. Six pairs of stereo cameras enable the tractor to complete a 360-degree scan to detect obstacles while it is cultivating, seeding, or harvesting.
The 8-series tractor calculates distance to a tolerance of less than one inch, while the use of seeds, water and pesticides is optimized through advanced software and global positioning thanks to real-time access to video, data, and metrics from the John Deere Operations Center.
So, farmers only need to transport the tractor to a field and configure it for autonomous operation. Then let the tractor do the work. Deere will also offer its automation system as a kit that can be installed on its other tractor models. This will widen the market potential of its technology substantially.
Given Deere's relatively modest valuation when compared to some other blue-chip companies, it looks like a great low volatility, lower-risk option for investors looking to profit from the profound changes underway in agriculture. The stock is a buy anywhere in the $365 to $385 range.