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Artificial intelligence and new business models in agriculture: the “ZERO” case study

Alberto Cavazza (Department of Management, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy)
Francesca Dal Mas (Department of Management, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy)
Maura Campra (Department of Economics and Business Studies, Facoltà di Economia, Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale Amedeo Avogadro, Novara, Italy)
Valerio Brescia (Department of Management, University of Turin, Torino, Italy) (Department of Management, Społeczna Akademia Nauk, Łódź, Poland)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 29 September 2023

413

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applied to vertical farms to evaluate whether disrupting technology supports sustainability and increases strategic business model choices in the agricultural sector. The study responds through empirical analysis to the gap on the subject of AI-driven business models present in the growing sector literature.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper analyzes the case of “ZERO”, a company linked to the strategy innovation ecosystem of the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. The empirical data were collected through a semi-structured questionnaire, interviews and the analysis of public news on the business model available in the analyzed case study. The research is empirical and uses exploratory, descriptive analysis to interpret the findings. The article focuses on the evaluation of AI impact on the agricultural sector and its potential to create new business models.

Findings

The study identified how AI can support the decision-making process leading to an increase in productivity, efficiency, product quality and cost reduction. AI helps increase these parameters through a continuous learning process and local production, and the possible decrease in prices directed toward the goal of zero km food with fresh products. AI is a winning technology to support the key elements of the vertical farm business model. However, it must be coupled with other devices, such as robots, sensors and drones, to collect enough data to enable continuous learning and improvement.

Research limitations/implications

The research supports new research trends in AI applied to agriculture. The major implication is the construction of ecosystems between farms, technology providers, policymakers, universities, research centers and local consumer communities.

Practical implications

The ZERO case study underlines the potential of AI as a destructive technology that, especially in vertical farms, eliminates external conditions by increasing productivity, reducing costs and responding to production needs with adequate consumption of raw materials, boosting both environmental and social sustainability.

Originality/value

The study is original, as the current literature presents few empirical case studies on AI-supporting business models in agriculture. The study also favors valuable strategic implications for the policies to be adopted in favor of new business models in agriculture.

Keywords

Citation

Cavazza, A., Dal Mas, F., Campra, M. and Brescia, V. (2023), "Artificial intelligence and new business models in agriculture: the “ZERO” case study", Management Decision, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-06-2023-0980

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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