techquartier agtech

The Future of Food: AgTech & FoodTech Outlook with Dr. Murat Ünal

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For a network scientist like Dr. Murat Ünal, the AgTech sector is like a giant food buffet. The number of possible combinations and opportunities is seemingly endless and, in the end, you should have something delicious on your plate.

Founder of SONEAN, he is one of the inspiring  experts who is mentoring participants in this year’s “Growth Alliance – The AgTech and FoodTech Accelerator”  presented by TechQuartier and Rentenbank on October 7- 11.

Dr. Ünal is touting the increasingly important role of global food production as one of the driving forces pushing high-tech innovations and fundamentally changing this ancient necessity of human survival. Modern farming.

“The average age of a farmer in Japan is 65,” Dr. Ünal said. In Europe, about two-thirds of agricultural workers are between the ages of 40 – 64 according to the European Commission on Agriculture.

These stats lead to the question: “Who will grow our food in the future?”

The answer is human-led technology. Sunlight-powered robots farming fields in Africa and driven by a human team in Singapore who can exactly pinpoint the optimal time to water to produce a larger crop yield? Why not?

This is where Dr. Ünal’s expertise and imagination step into the picture. His company SONEAN “launched a unique service called ‘Ecosystem Intelligence’ and runs the largest private social network analytic capability in Europe.” He is interested in connecting the dots (or in network science terms the “nodes”) across fields, countries, beliefs and politics to create a realistic, real-time 360-degree outlook that can help AgTech and FoodTech startups weigh the competition and forecast success.

Helping Startups

“We want to give startups a very good idea of the AgTech space. Not only what we are doing, but more importantly the very relevant developments we see on a global scale,” Dr. Ünal said about the upcoming event. “We want them to benchmark their startups with what is going on across the world. With a mouse click, we can tell them what other companies are doing and give them realistic feedback. Are they really on to something different from other companies?”

Participants in the TechQuartier five-day free program “Growth Alliance – The AgTech and FoodTech Accelerator” will have access to some of Germany’s best coaches including:

Five-Year Outlook

In addition to encouraging German startups to think about organically growing their ideas on a worldwide scale, program coaches will offer insights into the near future of Europe’s AgTech and FoodTech scene.

Here is Dr. Ünal’s five-year outlook the European AgTech industry focuses on the following:

  • There most likely will be a lot of breakthroughs in automation.  Robot or remotely-driven tractors are on the horizon.
  • The death of the combustion engine used in farming equipment is imminent as we move away from fossil fuels. Hydrogen, electricity and sunlight are all possible energy sources for new engines.
  • Crops will become more organic – weeds and bugs might be removed by robot “hands” and the use of chemicals will become more pinpointed in their application.
  • Data delivery will be important. A bee-sized drone flown by a remote human pilot could zoom between plants and collect information about crop health. Using improved, faster WiFi technology, a “farmer” can adjust watering schedules, fertilizer applications or pesticide information immediately on a micro or macro scale.
  • Food security and job retention is also important, according to Dr. Ünal.
    “Food production is a very basic industry that sets the standard for many other industries. Because, not just from a food security point of view, but if 70% of your people are working in agriculture like in some emerging markets, you want to keep these people employed or you want to train them. This is vital for so many countries.”

The New Farmer

These innovations are exciting to a young class of startup founders and students who might not considered about farming as a career, but want to create robots to aid in crop production or use machine learning (artificial intelligence) to predict needs.

“There’s a new generation of people developing ideas that will change the industry for good.”

About Dr. Ünal

Dr. Ünal graduated from the University of Adelaide/Australia with a B.Com degree. He holds an M.B.A degree from Kellogg/USA and WHU/Germany and its network programs at Tel Aviv Uni/Israel and Hong Kong Uni of Science and Technology/China SAR. Murat further has a LL.M. degree from the School of Law at Northwestern Uni in Chicago and a Doctorate in Business Administration from IE Business School in Madrid specializing in social network analysis (SNA). He regularly lectures at leading universities globally focusing on the unique application of SNA.

About TechQuartier’s Growth Alliance – The AgTech and FoodTech Accelerator

“The AgTech bootcamp offered us, not only professional input from highly competent experts and experienced companies, but above all the opportunity to network with other technology-oriented startups as well as the agricultural and food industries. This constellation is unique in Germany,”  said Dominik Ewald, Co-Founder of Monitorfish. His pitch was voted best pitch of Demo Day during last year’s inaugural AgTech and FoodTech Accelerator.

Topics covered in this five-day bootcamp include “Investment Readiness,” “Pitching & Storytelling” and “Governance.” Plus a business speed dating event will connect startups with investors and a demo day to introduce projects to the public.