3 old school industries innovating with new school technology

December 7, 2018 Matt Vermeulen

3 old school industries innovating with new school technology

So you’re in accounts payable, typically not viewed as being at the vanguard of cutting technology. If you’re stuck processing a ton of paper, it can feel like innovation is years away, and trying to get buy-in for cutting-edge solutions is impossible. In fact, it can feel like AP is too difficult to digitize.

Think you have it hard? See how these legacy industries found the creativity to upend themselves. And the good news is, your department can do it too.


Every advancement in farming revolves around automating manual tasks. Farming is tedious, labor-intensive, and often dangerous work. It faces persistent labor shortages, while pressure mounts to produce more food from the crops it grows, while weather patterns are changing in major growing regions, hampering those efforts.

Innovators are working in the farming industries to use AI and robotic automation to solve for these three problems. One example, Iron Ox, is the first autonomous robot farm in the United States. They claim their autonomous farm can “grow 30 times more produce than traditional farms” with AI software, hydroponics, and efficiently moving plants throughout the day to utilize growing space.

They’ve gained over $10 billion in investments in 2017, based on the promise of their tech to address the persistent problems plaguing farming.


When you think of supermarkets, you don’t often think of innovation. And you’re right. Investors generally agree that supermarkets have lagged behind in adopting new technology and luring innovators to the market. Things are changing, though. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Venture-capital firms have invested more than $1.2 billion in grocery technology this year…double the total for 2017.”

Two of the newest developments are robotics and artificial intelligence. In England, Ocado is using a highly sophisticated fleet of robots to bag online grocery options in less than five minutes, and Kroger has a deal in place to partner with them for 20 warehouses in the US. Watch this video of the robots in action for your own personal robot-grocer ASMR.

Freight Transport

Shipping is notoriously complicated, and getting your product from one part of the world to the other while navigating shifting international and country law can cause headaches in the best of times. And gaining true transparency into the supply chain is maddeningly difficult.

And those are the very areas where technological investment is pouring in for transport. A partnership between IBM and Maersk is trying to bring transparency into shipping supply chains with blockchain (which is admittedly navigating stormy seas trying to get other carriers to join their platform).

And Inttra, spun off from a consortium of shipping lines, is working to digitize the “rudimentary and manual business of booking freight container transport” to improve efficiency, bookings, and price.  

Now it’s your turn to be the hero

Those three industries have persistent and entrenched problems to solve, and are investing heavily to find new solutions. Sometimes, with all those paper banker boxes laying around, it can feel like AP is an afterthought. But for the AP specialists in these industries, the same technological advances can help your department save your company money and streamline finance.

Unlike the hard work of creating new robots and buying new warehouses, the tools are all already out there and ready to be utilized for accounts payable. Now’s the time to future-proof your processes. It’s never been easier to automate and stay ahead of the curve. And with a fast-paced and innovative AP department working behind the scenes in these massive industries, you can be a hero by bringing cost-saving efficiencies to every aspect of your enterprise.

See how the agriculture giant, Archer Daniels Midland, went from 100% paper to 100% digital.

About the Author

Matt Vermeulen

Matt Vermeulen writes about B2B commerce for Tradeshift. Whether he's writing about Accounts Payable best practices or debunking AI myths, Matt enjoys making complex topics easy to understand and fun to read.

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