Greece on the Rise in Food and AgroTech
Agriculture itself is not the most thriving economic sector in Greece due to environmental conditions, however, Greece is still a major producer of cotton and tobacco and the country is widely known for its olives. Agriculture in Greece has always been characterized by small farms and low capital investment. Now, companies are incorporating technology into the farming and consumption journey, from allowing people to read about ingredients in their food to helping farmers monitor the state of their crops. In this next post of our #GreekTechRising series, we dive into the food and agrotech industry to explore key stats and trends on the growth of the industry, as well as companies in the space that are making waves.
Agricultural Industry Utilizes 64% of National Territory
Greece is a small country made of a mainland with many volcanoes and mountainous ranges and over 2,000 scattered islands throughout the Mediterranean. The agricultural sector of the economy struggles due to the lack of viable land. The agricultural industry utilizes ~64% of the national territory, while ~31% is forested. Of the millions of hectares used for agriculture, ~57% is in the plains and ~43% is in mountainous areas. Specifically, the plains of Thessaly, Macedonia, and Thrace are agricultural hubs of Greece. Furthermore, of the total agricultural land, ~64% is used for arable cultivations, ~29% for tree crops, ~4% for vineyards and ~3% for garden area. The farmers have to make modifications to their techniques in order to accommodate the arid land.
Lack of Natural Rainfall
Greece is filled with natural resources such as ignite, petroleum, zinc, nickel, marble, and salt, but it lacks an abundant resource of water. The low rainfall, about 652 mm a year, in Greece is a major factor that holds back the growth of the agricultural sector. To mitigate this, there was an increase in irrigation, as the total amount of irrigated land increased 22% from 1990 to 2000. However, recent improvements in irrigation have slowed down. Overall, over 90% of water consumption in Greece is due to agriculture but the lack of natural rainfall poses a large barrier for the agricultural sector.
Overall, over 90% of water consumption in Greece is due to agriculture but the lack of natural rainfall poses a large barrier for the agricultural sector.
Economics of the Agricultural Industry
The agricultural sector is a large component of the economic activity and employment in Greece. The agricultural industry only employs ~15% of the national workforce, partially because 75% of Greece’s population lives in urban settings. As people are continuously moving to towns and cities, the percent of the workforce in agriculture is decreasing. Agricultural output has declined from 17% of GDP in the early 1990’s to 4.1% percent today. The economic crisis has significantly taken a toll on the farming industry, as it is highly dynamic industry to begin with. As we see more imports of food in Greece, this number is expected to decline.
Imports & Exports
Greece is situated nearby many countries with different strengths in terms of agricultural production. Therefore, there are many goods that are imported from and exported to Greece. The main agri-food suppliers to the Greek market are France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria. Cheese, pork, beef, and prepared food dominate the imports to Greece. Agricultural products account for one third of Greek exports, and the primary countries for Greece’s products are Germany, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The main products exported from Greece are cheese, olive oil, olives, cotton, sea bream, and canned peaches. Overall, Greece imports significantly more food and beverages than it exports, partly due to Greece’s limited resources and suboptimal land.
Agricultural products account for one third of Greek exports, and the primary countries for Greece’s products are Germany, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Technology in Farming
The development of technology has allowed Greek agriculture to become more efficient. As the landscape of farms in Greece is characterized by small farms with little capital, there is lower agricultural productivity in Greece compared to other European countries. The economies of scale in modern farming practices have less of an impact on Greece, due to the fact that each individual farm is relative. However, there are technologies that play a key role in increasing the efficiency of farming in Greece. During the 1960s, 1.7 million hectares of land were devoted to 2.1-3.3 million metric tons of cereals, whereas now 1 million hectares of land yield 4.3 millions metric tons. We see that less land is producing more product, and this is due to the push for innovation.
Government is Involved in Increased Agricultural Activity
The government has been involved in improving and increasing agricultural activity in Greece. In 1915, Greece adopted a system of farming cooperatives which are groups of farms that are supported the government, meant to streamline farming efforts. The EU has also granted Greece subsidies to help the agricultural sector. Furthermore, the Greek Ministry of Agriculture created Hellagro SA to help Greek agricultural companies sell their products over the Internet. A specific product the government is interested in is wine as an export, so the government has urged owners of vineyards to produce higher quality of wine to increase the popularity of ‘Greek wine.’ The EU and Greek government are supporting the agricultural sector, and we also see many companies doing so as well.
A specific product the government is interested in is wine as an export, so the government has urged owners of vineyards to produce higher quality of wine to increase the popularity of ‘Greek wine.’
Companies Disrupting the Food & Agrotech Sector
As the food & agrotech industry continues to grow and evolve in Greece, we see a diverse range of companies that are emerging to address different pain points for companies. We see companies that focus on prominent issues in the food and agriculture industries. Here are five examples of companies that are revolutionizing the food & agrotech industry in Greece:
Sustainable Food Movement
Reducing Food Waste
Sustainable Food Movement is a social enterprise which aims at tackling food waste and promoting sustainability in restaurants. They urge business executives and restaurant owner to be more innovative through sustainability, often through trainings that they offer.
The Truth About Ingredients
Ingredio is an app with the vision to create a society without toxic chemicals. They aim to inform consumers about the ingredients that are in the products they are purchasing or using. This allows the individual to know the indgredient’s impacts to their health and the health of the environment. By raising awareness of dangerous chemical, Ingredio is eliminating the world of dangerous chemicals.
Convenient Gardening for the City Dweller
The CityCrop unit is a smartphone-controlled “mini-fridge” that grows vegetable and herb plants. The unit automatically takes care of nutrient dosing, pH balancing, temperature and humidity control, and odor utilization, so you can grow with ease. CityCrop aims to make growing high-quality, pesticide-free vegetables and herbs easy and accessible for everyone.
Monitoring Crops to Inform the Farmer
GeaBit, awarded by Nissan as one of the 19 startups changing the world, takes on a data-driven approach to farming. The devices continuously monitors and analyzes the plant’s health, capturing climate data directly from the field, and then providing actionable insights for the farmer. In 2018, farmers who used the technology were able to increase their average yield by 30%.
The Packaged Olive Tree
PlantBox allows people to see the transformation of an olive tree. After years of research, the PlantBox team created a standardized and packaged olive tree with all the necessary specifications, multiplication growth, and packing and preserving techniques. The PlantBox is completely made of recyclable materials. It is the perfect way to gift a piece of Greek soil, Greek history, and Greek culture to friends or family.
Greek Tech Rising
Food and AgroTech is continually improving B2B and B2C interactions. In the future, due to climate change, it is expected that Greek agricultural production is expected to drastically decrease. The costs of climate change to Greece is expected to be $2.6-5.9 billion US dollars per year. However, we have disruptive companies that are helping support the agricultural and food industries. Explore the rest of the #GreekTechRising series to learn more about other trending industries, emerging ventures in each space, how they are all contributing to the overall rise of the Greek tech ecosystem.
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