As 2021 draws to an end, Covid-19 continues to have a big impact on the agribusiness industry, causing issues such as supermarket shortages on a global scale. Meanwhile, consumers continue to show a growing preference for adopting healthier lifestyles, while the world also continues to face the challenge of feeding an ever-increasing population while battling the climate crisis. Indeed, the hurdles facing the agribusiness industry in 2022 look quite similar to those from 2021.

As far as more positive developments go, however, robotics, the internet of things (IoT), waste reduction and sustainability, healthy plant-based food alternatives and low-alcohol drinks are some of the areas set to grow throughout the coming 12 months.

The role of robotics in shoring up supply chains

Pictures of empty supermarket shelves in the UK made news headlines around the world, but food supply chain issues have been a common problem worldwide as the pandemic revealed their vulnerability.

One of the main causes attributed to issues with food supply chains has been a shortage of labour exacerbated by the pandemic. As such, the role that robotics can play in agricultural supply chains has risen to centre stage and is one to keep an eye on as a potential agribusiness trend in 2022.

The global agricultural robots market size is expected to grow from $4.9bn in 2021 to $11.9bn by 2026, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.3%., according to MarketsandMarkets research.

The use of agricultural robots can also help farmers to reduce inputs – pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers – which can help to increase the sustainability of agriculture.

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However, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), about 90% of farmers worldwide operate on a small scale and this technology seems some way off being accessible to this large group.

The internet of things and improved sustainability

In the same vein as robotics, and within the agritech space, the use of IoT technology promises to help make agriculture and agriculture supply chains more efficient and, in turn, more sustainable.

According to a market research report published by Meticulous Research, the global agriculture IoT market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15.2% from 2019 to 2027 to reach a value of $32.7bn by 2027.

The scope of IoT in agriculture is vast, from the use of drones to check or spray crops to utilising smart greenhouses and smart sensors to maximise yields while minimising the use of resources.

Alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks

Low-alcohol and no-alcohol drinks have been gaining popularity over the past few years, with drinks such as hard seltzers increasingly populating supermarket shelves across the US and Europe.

The low and no-alcohol category increased its share within the total beverage alcohol market to 3% in 2020, and total volume is forecast to grow by 31% by 2024, according to the No- and Low-Alcohol Strategic Study 2021 by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis

The report looks into no-alcohol and low-alcohol consumption across Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the US, which represent about 75% of the world’s consumption of these types of drinks. 

Even though alcoholic drinks are not likely to disappear any time soon, the market share of healthier, low-alcohol and no-alcohol drinks is one to keep an eye on within potential agribusiness trends in 2022.

Plant-based alternatives continue to grow

​​According to the FAO, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions will grow by 4% by 2030, and with livestock accounting for more than 80% of this increase, more and more consumers are turning to plant-based alternatives to reduce the carbon footprint of their meals.

According to Verified Market Research, the global vegan fast-foods market size was valued at $17bn in 2020 and is projected to reach $40.3bn by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 11.4% between 2021 and 2028. 

With adult obesity continuing to increase in most global regions, according to the FAO, any move towards healthier diets could also reduce the strain on a country's health services. 

Waste reduction and sustainability

“Reducing food loss and waste through a coherent set of policies and investments in food production, harvesting, handling, packaging, storage, transportation, processing and marketing,” has been identified by the FAO as one of the key policy areas to enable food supply chains to lower the cost of nutritious foods.

According to UN projections, the world's population is expected to grow from 7.8 billion in 2020 to 9.7 billion in 2050. Some 2.4 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of 320 million people in just one year, according to the FAO’s State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World in 2021 report.

Consequently, future-proofing global food supply chains to improve the sustainability of the food system while meeting the challenge of feeding the world will be a key item on the agribusiness agenda in 2022.

As the world enters 2022, and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose problems the world over, the virus looks set to dominate agribusiness trends in the coming year. However, this does not mean that other key issues, such as meeting the targets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or fighting the climate crisis, should be neglected. The five trends identified above can all work towards reaching these aims, and hopefully as we approach 2023 some notable progress will have been made.

For more coverage of the trends and themes likely to make an impact in 2022 across our publishing network, read the read following: