This was the first year SoilKit attended the World AgriTech Innovation Summit (WATIS). According to WATIS’s website www.worldagritechusa.com, “It’s been three years since we last gathered the agri-food community together in San Francisco, and we’re set for an explosion of ideas and opportunities when we reunite… Now in its 10th year, the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit has become the annual meeting place for the global agtech ecosystem. Growers, agribusiness leaders, technology pioneers and investors come together to exchange insights, be inspired, and identify future partners.” WATIS was attended by a large group of agricultural technology startups, investors, and other businesses working together to find solutions to problems in agriculture and beyond. My takeaway? Absolutely worth the time and money. I wish more conferences had this structure: powerful group meetings led by thought leaders, decision makers, and politicians, one-on-one meetings with potential investors, and breakout sessions. The Rethink Platform used to coordinate and manage the event experience helped to maximize event opportunities. It was a full 2 days and I left knowing SoilKit is in lockstep with where agtech is headed. Two of the coolest things at the conference was a fully electric tractor that is driver optional Monarch (check out the picture below – I can almost see myself loading up the kids in the front and taking off to do some farm harvesting fun), and Climate Robotics, developer of mobile biochar production equipment for carbon sequestration and agricultural soil improvement that clears fields and lays down biochar as it goes. This invention ended up winning the 60-sec pitch contest put on at the conference.
As an agriculture mentor of mine once told me, “envision what agriculture will look like in 5 years and get out in front of it – now.” SoilKit is doing just that – making soil health a priority for consumers, landscapers, municipalities, and universities all while sequestering carbon and helping reduce nutrient runoff. But what I learned so much more. Our nation is spending alarming amounts of money on lawns, gardens and hobby farms with largely disappointing results simply because we are not leading with science and technology. We continue to spend more to make the problem worse. For example, many people are spending money blindly on fertilizer without first performing a soil test with its scientific recommendations. USA Today and the Orlando Times both recently reported that “biologists estimate 90% of the seagrass manatees eat in Florida lagoons has been killed by pollutants like fertilizer.” Our nation is sick and we are relying on a multivitamin when it is time to get professional help. Use the right product at the right time in the right quantity by starting with a lab-based soil test.
In addition to the future of technology themes of the conference, thought leaders, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, kept circling back to the “perfect storm” of the 3 C’s of 2022: Carbon, Covid, Crisis. This perfect storm is leading to fuel and fertilizer prices soaring, food shortages, and more supply chain disruptions on the horizon. Identifying our obstacles is important but what I took away most from these hard conversations is SoilKit is in the right place at the right time. The world is moving towards a solution for those 3 Cs and corporate environmental, social, and governance missions will play a huge role in overcoming the obstacles we will face in the next 12 months and the next 12 years. SoilKit has always positioned itself as a disrupter in the agricultural technology space and we will continue to bring healthy lawns and gardens to the masses while we balance our responsibilities to the environment and global supply chain pressures on fertilizers and food prices.