How Ukraine’s agricultural startups are rebuilding a nation

According to an assessment made by the Government of Ukraine, World Bank Group, European Commission, and the United Nations, it is estimated that the reconstruction and recovery of Ukraine will cost €383 billion – a staggering figure that unfortunately continues to rise.

In the nearly two years since Russia’s full scale invasion, the attacks to Ukraine’s critical infrastructure have been relentless, and the industries and resources that are crucial to its economy have been impacted immensely.

However, the innovation of Ukraine’s startup ecosystem has already been transformative for its war effort. Technology such as drones, AI and other robotic systems have proven to be truly invaluable on the battlefield. The technological solutions that have become central to Ukraine’s military strategy will now be turned to its rebuilding effort, leveraging tech to recover the infrastructure and industries central to the country’s economy, and expedite its overall recovery. Agricultural recovery will be a critical starting point.

Agri(tech) remains at the centre

Pre-war, the agriculture industry accounted for 41% of Ukraine’s total exports and provided employment for 14% of the population. Its agricultural sector alone faces $4.29 billion worth of damage from the war. Restoring the nation's status as a global producer of crops presents a colossal challenge.

The key to overcoming this may lie with resources already being advanced by DefenceTech startups, which it is hoped will reduce the length of the war. Ukraine has developed a vast expertise in drone technology, currently used for combatting Russian military equipment, surveillance purposes and delivering supplies to the frontline. Already, some Ukrainian drone startups are looking to pivot their focus to reconstructing land destroyed by Russian attacks, where 20% of Ukraine’s agricultural land has been rendered unusable by landmines. Innovation behind detecting wasteland – whether that’s exposing mines or testing soil – and understanding the lay of the land will enable Ukraine to take the necessary steps towards a brighter future.

Startups such as Pilotechnika are developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) fitted with proprietary software that, using direct feedback from the front lines, responds to Ukraine’s specific military requirements. Pilotechnika is now seeking to further develop this technology to help de-mine this valuable land, so that it can eventually be restored. Designed to adapt to the ever-changing battlefield situation, these drones can be modified to help Ukraine overcome the long-term challenges of the war.

Beyond this, improving upon existing tech is another way in which Ukraine can enable its rebuild. Startups such as Kray Technologies, which was founded pre-war, have a key mission that is now more useful than ever. The company manufactures drones which can spray pesticides with 5D precision over a wide range – up to 1,200 acres per day autonomously – to protect crops and ultimately replace agriculture aircraft (AG planes) and ground sprayers. Kray Technologies has improved efficiency and productivity for the industry for one-tenth of the cost of other methods.

Rebuilding at a global level

Rebuilding Ukraine’s agricultural sector has more far-reaching implications than for the nation alone. In 2023, rapid increases in food prices remained a key driver of global inflation, surging to record highs since the outbreak of the war. First and foremost, rejuvenating Ukraine’s agricultural exports is imperative for its own economy, but

AgriTech solutions could also help to deescalate a global food crisis.

Long-term, these same solutions could be adopted internationally to help farming practices and production techniques better cope with the challenges posed by climate change. Climate change is everybody’s problem, so we should all be actively looking for sustainable answers. Ukraine’s agricultural industry also presents a unique opportunity for UK-based Agritech startups to test their technology as part of the rebuilding effort, where demand for innovative agricultural solutions is high.

As an active investor in AgriTech solutions and somebody with strong business links and access to the wider agricultural community in Ukraine (where the technology can be tested), I want to find impactful innovation that will save lives. With technology so transportable there’s potentially a major opportunity for UK startups, without them needing to have a physical base in Ukraine. For the startups, feedback from one of the world’s most experienced agricultural communities on the real-world application of their tech would be extremely valuable.

Global cooperation in this regard is of the utmost importance, and increasing interconnectedness requires the harnessing of international innovation. As a result, the international agricultural industry and investors are beginning to recognise the value of Ukraine’s AgriTech startups too.

As global investment in AgriTech continues to rise, Ukraine should be seeking to position itself as a world-leader in this space, just as it is now recognised for DefenceTech innovation in recent years. By pioneering the redefinition of farming practices, Ukraine’s AgriTech startups could jumpstart the country’s economic growth post-war and, in more ways than one, play a crucial role in rebuilding the nation, perhaps even the world.