Food prices will ‘get worse’ and food shortages are a risk: New technology is needed – Daniel McCann
(Kitco News)Food prices are going to "get worse," and emerging nations could see food shortages, said Daniel McCann, CEO of Precision AI, a Canadian-based company that uses drones to surgically spray herbicide on weeds. Currently, most farmers use a sprayer to apply herbicide across their entire fields, instead of targeting specific weeds. McCann suggested that his company technology could help to alleviate the problems of higher food prices and lower food output.
McCann spoke with David Lin, Anchor and Producer at Kitco News, at the Collision 2022 Conference in Toronto.
Food prices and food shortages?
McCann said that a variety of factors are to blame for higher food prices, including geopolitical tensions and inflation. As an example, he pointed out that sanctions on Russia had increased costs for farmers, since the nation is a "major fertilizer producer."
"We can't just find a substitute for fertilizer," he said. "There are a lot of different emerging technologies that claim to be fertilizer substitutes or more efficient fertilizers. Unfortunately, they have the same scale problems that everything else has… you just simply can't obtain them."
He explained that "this year's yields are expected to be much lower than previous years'," due to higher costs of farming. "Then paired with that," he added, "you've got geopolitical issues with a lot of countries that used to export grain, now becoming protective of their grain."
When it comes to food shortages, McCann said that emerging nations are at risk. "80 percent of some of the African countries' imports of wheat come from Ukraine," he explained. "Well of course they can't do that anymore right now, and that's going to create significant problems, especially if other countries aren't prepared to make up the shortfall through their exports."
A 'revolution' in farming
McCann said that existing herbicide practices are too costly for farmers. "Only about 5 percent of the biomass of any given field is weeds," he said. "But we spray the whole field."
Since Precision AI's drone technology locates and sprays only weeds, McCann believes that this can reduce farming costs, and by extension food prices.
He said, "the advantage of systems like [drone technology], is that you can go up to a farmer and say, 'What do you spend on chemical inputs every year?' And you can tell them to erase that number and write in a number that is 90 percent lower… So if you can bring those input costs down, eventually it means less output costs."
To find out other applications of Precision AI's technologies, watch the above video.
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