Dear Startup Investor,

Just before the New Year, I shared the three biggest trends I’ll be watching in 2022.

One of those – and arguably the most critical – is the crisis currently faced by the American workforce, especially in agriculture.

By 2050, there will be more than 9 billion people on Earth; experts say we’ll need to increase food production by as much as 70% if we’re going to feed them all.

It’s no longer viable solution to clear more land for farming… Which means the only way forward is to make farming the land we do have dramatically more productive.

This is one of our biggest focuses at Wavemaker Labs. So many of our portfolio companies – like Miso Robotics, Future Acres, and even Piestro – center on the theory that robotics and automation are key to making food in all its forms as efficient, nutritious, and affordable as possible.

We’ve been working on these projects for several years now, meaning (not to brag) that we’re pretty far ahead of the curve on this trend.

But last week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), John Deere unveiled a new piece of equipment that we’re insanely excited about.

The 8R Tractor is a fully autonomous tractor that can plow fields and plant crops with very little human input. It uses AI and a series of cameras to avoid obstacles and learn its environment (kind of like a giant industrial Roomba).

Particularly interesting is the fact that farmers can control the 8R via smartphone – meaning they don’t have to sit in the tractor or even be in the field nearby to use it.

This is obviously momentous for John Deere as a company. But more than that, it’s a huge leap forward for the precision agriculture movement, which utilizes tech from sensors to AI to robotics to make farming as efficient as it can be.

More than half of all farming equipment in the U.S. comes from John Deere. Its customer base is incredibly loyal – and that means precision agriculture just got a powerful endorsement that could drive tech adoption forward much faster.

Automation in agriculture means higher output, fewer man hours, and greater production… all of which will be critical to expand access to low-cost, healthy food.

And on a personal level, this is amazing news for Wavemaker Labs, where we’re all about automation. I think all of our companies stand to see trickle-down benefits from the big announcement, but in particular, this is an exciting time for Future Acres.

This startup’s autonomous electric vehicle, Carry, is like an extra set of hands in the field. It automatically follows workers and transports crops to and from different parts of a farm – increasing production by up to 30%.

As consumer hunger for automated farm equipment grows, we think Carry is positioned to be the first and only product of its kind.

I can’t wait to watch all the inefficiencies and labor-heavy tasks in agriculture disappear one by one as companies like Future Acres develop innovative new solutions. And many studies show that adding robots does not take jobs away from people. Rather, it creates new opportunities for higher-skill and growth-focused roles… all while eliminating the most tedious, dangerous, and difficult tasks.

Whether or not you invested in Future Acres, this is an exciting win for the Network as a whole. And we’ll be the first to tell you when we spot another opportunity or update in this space.

Did you invest in Future Acres? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

Talk soon,

Buck Jordan