Significant trends in the agri-food industry are expected to emerge in 2023, following a challenging year which exposed a number of weaknesses in the global food system, according to intelligence provider CropIn.

Extreme weather events, geopolitical tensions and international conflicts led to an increased awareness of countries’ inability to provide food security and fight hunger among their populations.

As a result, founder and CEO of CropIn, Krishna Kunar, is forecasting increased investment in sustainable practices, an enhanced focus on smallholder farmers and accelerated digitisation of agricultural methods throughout 2023.

Sustainability investments

Kumar said that investments in sustainability-focused projects will continue to build momentum in 2023 with a particular focus on climate adaption finance for poorer nations.

Government and charitable funding for programmes to help smallholder farmers in developing countries factor climate resilience into their practices has been growing, he explained, and said this pattern will likely accelerate over the next year

In addition, CropIn stated that it also “expects the private sector’s contribution to this to see new heights”.

This links in with another anticipated trend – an enhanced focus on empowering smallholder farmers, of which there are approximately 500 million of across the globe.

“Global food-system stakeholders have realised that meaningful and enduring transformation of agriculture is not possible unless smallholder farmers at the grassroots level are enabled to adopt smarter, more efficient ways of farming.

“Digitisation and intuitive, inexpensive, easily accessible technology can go a long way in making this happen.

“Farmer empowerment at the grassroots level will take centre stage in boardroom conversations of agri-businesses next year,” added Kunar.

Digitisation of agriculture in 2023

Using technology to empower farmers won’t just be a trend in poorer nations however, with Kumar forecasting a worldwide focus on how technology can be used to mitigate the impact of farming on climate change.

He anticipates specific goals around increasing transparency within food systems and using a combination of technologies to find solutions on supply chain issues.

These will include geographic information mapping systems, artificial intelligence models, weather data and drones among a number of others.

Food systems and self-sufficiency

The risks involved with a heavy reliance on other countries for key products such as fertiliser and grain were brought to the fore over the past nine months, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This experience will drive nations to build food self-reliance and self-sufficiency according to Kumar.

“High dependence on a few markets for major crops, staple foods and raw materials opens up governments and whole populations to the risk of disruption in production and the threat of food insecurity.

“Governments will step up large-scale production of technology and data to help their economies to build self-reliance,” said Kumar.

Minimising waste will play a key role in creating a more secure food supply according to the CEO. He added that the world currently wastes one third of the food it produces but more countries are looking to reverse that by embracing new technologies.

“E.g., soil sensors can help monitor soil health to prevent the loss of crops in the field.

“Digital solutions can monitor the crop lifecycle and send real time advisories to growers that can help them to reduce wastage in the cultivation process.”

The CropIn founder is also expecting an amplified focus on soil conservation and biodiversity in the coming years and said that “a lot more needs to be done to check soil degradation, and maintain and improve soil health”.

“Farmers need to be guided by data-driven decisions on the optimal use of water, pesticides, and agrochemicals and regenerative farming practices that can nurture soil health.

“Policy-makers, agro-chemical companies, technology players, and NGOs will come together with new initiatives and investments to safeguard the soil,” Kumar finished.