Farm Babe: Catch a glimpse into the future of food with these ag startups


I recently attended the 34th annual Alltech ONE conference, and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. The conference draws nearly 4,000 attendees from 76 countries around the world to come together and celebrate innovative ideas and business in agriculture. It includes a couple of days of specialized sessions, mind-blowing music, qualified inspirational speakers, undeniably delicious cuisine, and a platform to recognize those who’ve achieved excellence in science and ag.

But this year there were several companies that really stood out. One of my favorite aspects of the conference is the time where they discuss the new startup organizations in agriculture. The founder of Alltech, Dr. Pearse Lyons, unfortunately passed away in March and was always inspirational with his ideas and in making a difference in the world around us. The tributes to him were absolutely beautiful, and Dr. Lyons had a vision to make the Lexington, Kentucky, area the “Silicon Valley of the east.” Through this program (the Pearse Lyons Accelerator program), the technology showcased creates a clear path for this very fitting nickname.

The founders of these businesses came out to the crowd and gave almost like a “Shark Tank”-style pitch to to share — who they are and what they do. These several minutes are enough to inspire you to want to learn more: What is the future of food?

The future looks bright. Here are a couple of my favorites:

1. Vence. A virtual fence! Say goodbye to all the expensive, time consuming, and annoying chores associated with what we call fencing. Vence works as a sensor in the ear, and you create your fencing via smartphone. If the animal starts to go outside of your fence area, they’ll hear an unpleasant noise. If they keep going, it gets louder, and if they continue on too far, they receive a small electric shock. It seems similar to what happens with dog fencing, except here it appears to be even more dependable and on a grander scale.

2. Pen/Point. Nutritional breakthroughs ready to tackle Bovine Respiratory Disease. (BRD). I personally know people who’ve been catastrophically affected by the dreadful BRD, known through many livestock veterinarians to be one of the most prominent issues facing cattle today. Through real-time data and improved nutritional breakthroughs, this could lead us down a path of healthier cattle and an even safer food supply. Sign me up.

3. SmartBow. Speaking of data, SmartBow is another ear-tag computer chip technology that tells you exactly what your animals are doing. There are 4.8 billion food animals in the world with over 10 trillion data points. What if sensors and apps could notify you if your animal was sick? What if you’d like to monitor them remotely? With technologies like Smartbow, you can do just that.

4. eggXYt. This Israeli-based company is able to “count your chickens before they hatch,” so to speak. Using CRISPR lay-sex detectable eggs, they’ve found a way to sex chickens before they hatch, thereby eliminating the male chick culling aspect. The eggs are biomarked and there are other companies similar to this out there that can ensure only females are born. Not only that, but this will save a ton of time and money where 1.2 trillion eggs are produced each year, thereby cutting down on resources and making the industry more profitable and efficient overall.

5. Adentro. Spanish for “in,” Adentro was one of my favorite technologies to learn about. What if there was a way to “unlock” the plants defense mechanisms from within? Some crops right now are affected by awful fungus like Black Sigatoka in bananas, and 90 percent of the orange crop in Florida is being mannered by citrus greening disease in oranges. Some farmers are having to apply four times the amount of pesticides to combat these real problems, but what if pesticides could be a thing of the past? Using nutrigenomics, the plants release enzymes to fight disease before it arrives. Plants are a farmer’s “bank account” — protect them from “hackers” by allowing them to protect themselves! Neat, eh?

These were just a few of my favorites. Several other companies affiliated with the Pearse Lyons Accelerator program include Entocycle, Truly, and Alltech Smart Dairy. For more information on them and to see more of the conference online, search the hashtag #ONE18 on social media for all the action!


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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