Blockchain is the ideal tool for tracking agriculture

Italian agriculture is increasingly high-tech. In recent times, there has been a real rush to buy connected agricultural machinery and technological solutions that are capable of improving crops and livestock. According to data collected by Politecnico di Milano, that investments in the so-called agriculture 4.0 has gone from 540 million euros in the first half of 2020 to 1.3 billion by 2020, up to 1.6 billion in 2021. Growth driven by spending on built-in connected agricultural machinery and equipmentcorresponding to 47% of the market and an increase of 17%, followed by that of surveillance and control systems applicable to after-sales agricultural vehicles and equipment (up 35%).

This acceleration coincided with the pandemic, and it is likely that the shutdown in the spring of 2020, when farmers even had difficulty harvesting due to anti-Covid restrictions, convinced many to expand their role as machines. At the end of last year, the areas cultivated with agricultural implements were 4.0 equal to 6% of the total number, exactly double compared to twelve months earlier. Today, 60% of Italian farmers use at least one high-tech solution and over four out of ten use at least two, in particular control software and machine monitoring and control systems. FromSmart Agrifood Observatory of School of Management at the Politecnico di Milano he was born in Rise laboratory (Research & Innovation for Smart Enterprises) byUniversity of Brescia the increasing attention to data analysis and decision support systems.

“More and more players in the agro – food chain are recognizing the potential and benefits of digital innovation, which today represents a strategic lever for the sector’s resilience and competitiveness – he explains Andrea BacchettiDirector of Smart AgriFood Observatory – This is certified by the important growth of the market and in the area grown with agricultural tools 4.0, certainly supported by tax incentives linked to the tax deductionwhich in particular contributed to the renewal of the machine fleet, but could have had an even greater significance if they had been specifically designed for the agricultural sector ”.

Incentives have provided an important boost to investment, especially from concessions from rural development programs and from Transition plan 4.0: Three quarters of farms have used at least an agricultural incentive of 4.0, and 84% claim that they have had a decisive influence on investment choices, allowing them to anticipate them (for 44% of farms), to invest in more solutions (20%) or a more expensive solution (20%).

The urgency of introducing high-tech solutions is not only dictated by efficiency reasons, but also by commercial ones. Consumer demand for greater transparency is high, and it Blockchain is the ideal tool for trace the origin of the products. Again, according to the Smart AgriFood Observatory, over half of Italians (53%) always or often search for information related to the traceability of the food they buy, 35% do so now and then, and only 12% are not interested. Among the various information, special attention is paid to geographical originso much so thatThe Italian character of the brand andthe origin of the raw material are the factors that have the greatest influence on the purchase.

It is therefore not surprising that agri-food is the fourth sector for the adoption of Blockchain at the international level. The operators in the sector look with interest at this technology rather than marketing and communication goals (54% of the cases), but in 47% of the cases also after greater efficiency with regard to supply chain management and coordination processes and in 26% to oversee the processes to improve sustainability of the supply chain. Furthermore, in 13% of projects, the aim is to make the procedures for recalling products in the event of criticality more efficient and effective. The implementation of Blockchain in the sector continues to be pressured by the issues downstream in the supply chain, especially major players in processing and distribution, but compared to previous cases where they are producers of raw materials (agriculture and livestock). ) and of productive input to become promoters.

Despite these major advances, there is still a long way to go: “For example, it is necessary to increase the cultivated area with 4.0 practices, increase the use of applications that integrate the various stages of the value chain and crucially develop the digital culture and confidence in the potential in digital technologies, ”concludes Bacchetti.

Graphics by Silvano Di Meo

Stimulation of incentives

Globally, they are active 750 start-ups within smart agrifood. Last year, these realities took off completely $ 15 billion in funding. Over 60% of startups are based in the US and Europe, but most of the funding has gone to Asia. In addition to the nascent Chinese companies, those from the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Saudi Arabia have also had particular success with major international investors. L ‘Italy is among the top ten countries for the number of startupsbut it affects less than 1% of the loans received.

International startups are mainly aimed at consumers and farms, the two extremes of the agri-food chain. Those that fall into the first category mostly offer e-commerce services and applications to learn about product traceability information. The startups targeting farms, on the other hand, mainly offer Agriculture 4.0 solutions for remote mapping and monitoring of crops or agricultural machinery.

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