[17 January/AgFunder]

Two high profile food innovations grabbed attention at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas – IBM’s blockchain initiative with Walmart and Impossible Foods’ meat-free burger (the new Impossible 2.0 Burger was named by tech publisher Digital Trends as the Top Tech of CES) however other food technology was notably absent. The opening keynote by Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, included a conversation with Walmart about leveraging blockchain as part of a Food Trust platform it has established to help food safety and freshness. Whilst they may not be applying tech to food and ag yet, the leaders and innovators are recognising and beginning to exploit the opportunities to use technology to agri-food industry problems. A shortage of labour is food and agriculture’s biggest problem, with demand for new kinds of talent being a big part of the conversation about technology adoption. IBM coined the term “no collar” workers to define the necessary knowledge workforce to serve the needs of companies in all industries that are embracing technology. New ethics concerns are emerging due to abundant and free-flowing data, with issues such improper data use, cyber-attacks and AI bias. Digital technology is being adopted in food and ag but at a slower rate than other industries and companies have little appetite to invest in new, unproven innovations with such tight margins.