VC firms pumped a record amount of investment into AI agriculture startups this year.

Is the future of farming dependent on laser-equipped, autonomous weed killers and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI)? If one were to go by the amount of venture capital funding being pumped into agricultural software start-ups, the answer is a resounding yes. The Wall Street Journal reports that investors have injected a record $1.54 billion into start-ups focused on AI agriculture software this year, up from $1.42 billion in 2020 and $1.03 billion combined for the prior two years. With farmers being squeezed to scale back on using pesticides, fertilizers, and other resources while turning up crop production, they will need to be able to keep ongoing tabs on plants, soil, and atmospheric conditions data, the CEO of one ag-software startup said. Don’t be too surprised if company names like SemiosBio, whose AI services are meant to help farmers determine the best timing and locations to use insecticide, become as associated with managing fields as John Deere. Of course, investors are betting that the tech will actually supersede years of learned experience. —Matthew Sedacca