Categories
AgTech Investments

Insurance Australia Group has bought a multimillion-dollar stake in Digital Agriculture Services

Insurance Australia Group Limited (IAG) is the largest general insurance company in Australia and New Zealand. The Group’s businesses underwrite almost $12 billion of premium per annum, selling insurance under many leading brands. IAG, Australia’s largest general insurer, made the investment in Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) through its $75 million venture capital fund Firemark Ventures.

In April, Firemark Ventures also bought a stake in US start-up Arturo, which applies similar methods as those used by DAS – aerial imaging, AI, data analytics – to an urban setting, assessing risks to individual residential and commercial properties.

Digital Agriculture Services is a rural technology company based in Melbourne. The company was established in partnership with CSIRO, Australia’s national science and research agency, in 2017, with a mission to deliver reliable rural intelligence. The company is applying machine learning and AI to develop rural data-powered solutions that transform the way rural assets are assessed, valued and monitored.

Despite the importance of food and agriculture to our economy, rural data is patchy and fragmented; inaccessible or unintelligible; or simply not connected in a way that’s useful. Every day, business, policy makers and farmers are making decisions without reliable rural data or analytics. This lack of data not only means billions in decisions are being based on inaccurate, unreliable or incomplete data – it means agriculture’s risk profile is far higher than it should be.

Problem statement – DAS

DAS’ founders believe that by providing the most reliable rural intelligence possible, we can give today’s decision makers the data they need to make more informed decisions. Decisions that build competitive advantage, wealth and prosperity for all.

Read more at Financial Review

Categories
Food Loss/Waste

10 most commonly produced products out of food waste

The idea of extracting valuable ingredients from waste products and processing by-products is not a new one but new extraction technologies and increasing demand for natural ingredients could open up new avenues for extracting value-added ingredients. Now-a-days, food wastes are considered as a cheap source of valuable components. Exploitation of the entire plant tissue could have economic benefits to producers.

As more legal requirements are implemented, the food industry will be increasingly obligated to prevent waste. The French penalty system (which fines supermarkets for wastage) and Italian incentive system (which rewards them for donating surplus food) actively encourages waste prevention. Similarly, National Environment Agency, Singapore, launched a S$1.76 million food waste fund. The fund aims to help organisations subsidise the cost of installing food waste treatments solutions.

Let’s have a look at 10 most commonly produced products out of food waste:

  1. Juices

A carrot may have two legs, an apple might be dimpled, a cucumber might be slightly discolored — all of this leads to ‘rejectsʼin the food system. Approximately, one-third of a farmerʼs total harvest is lost due to the aesthetic standards of retailers. Contrary to popular perception, these rejected fruits and vegetables (based on aesthetic standards) are as fresh and delicious as their perfect counterparts. By sourcing these misfit fruits and vegetables, companies are developing sustainable juice and beverage production business.

  1. Fruit flour from seed, skin and pomace of fruits

Gluten-free foods could benefit from highly fibrous fruit flours developed from the by-product of juice and cider production. These by-product flours are high in dietary fibre and have high antioxidant properties. Eg. for the gluten-free bread, rice flour and potato starch is blended with the fruit flour and for extruded snacks fruit flour is mixed with maize flour. The blending is done to balance the taste impacts as well as provide key structural requirements needed for gluten-free bakery and snacks products

  1. Antimicrobial and Antioxidant foods
  • Cranberry pomace, a by-product of the juicing process, may be extruded to produce a range of polyphenol-rich ingredients for use in supplements or functional foods. The resulting product could be incorporated into a dietary supplement or explored as a functional snack food. Cranberry has long been considered an effective method of fighting urinary tract infections
  • Antimicrobial and antioxidant potential of ethanolic extract of mango seeds can be used to enhance the shelf life and to increase the antioxidant capacity of fresh-cut mango
  • Phenolic extracts from olive oil mill waste can be used as alternatives to synthetic antioxidants in order to increase the stability of foods. Disposal of olive oil mill waste causes serious environmental problems, as many of its constituents are not easily degradable
  • Onion wastes are an interesting source of phytochemicals, sulphurous compounds and natural antioxidants. Brown skin shows a high concentration of quercetin, aglycone and calcium. Outer scales could be used as source of flavonols, with good antioxidant activity and dietary fibre content 
  • Antioxidant waste from the soy industry could offer a cheap and healthy alternative to synthetic antioxidants that prolong the shelf life of food. The appreciable concentrations of flavonoids, along with phenolic acids and other antioxidant phytochemicals present in soybean might be responsible for their free radical-scavenging activity
  • Industrial by-products from tomato processing contain a significant amount of bioactive compounds that could be used to provide natural and sustainable source of antioxidants for functional food formulation, or to act as preservative ingredients in foods
  • Similar to wine and grape juice, which are known to contain natural antioxidants, up to 50% remain in the waste material left behind when the skins, stems and seeds are filtered
  1. Pectin
  • Each ton of dry cocoa bean produces ten tonnes of cocoa pod husk waste. An average of 10 grams of pectin could be extracted from every 100 grams of husk by-product. This way for each ton of dry cocoa bean production, one tonne of pectin could be extracted from the husk waste. Extraction of pectins from the main by-product of cocoa production would not only help to reduce the costs of the production of cocoa products but would also manage the disposal of this waste in an environmental friendly manner through the use of a natural and safe food additive
  • Waste orange peel is an excellent example of a wasted resource. By volume, half the orange fruit is left as waste once the juice has been recovered. Use of technology could allow the generation of valuable food ingredients like pectin on large scale. The ‘greenʼ approach could help dispose of waste products whilst also turning a profit.
  • Potato pulp is an underutilized material produced in large quantities by potato starch factories. Potato waste could provide ‘new generation’ of food ingredients like pectin. Extraction method promises large-scale extraction of potato fibres rich in pectin and functional hydrocolloids.
  1. Enzymes
  • Through solid state fermentation, it is possible to develop a multi-enzyme solution rich in glucoamylase and protease from waste bread. In the last two decades, solid state fermentation has attracted interest in western countries due to its advantages in the production of secondary metabolites, and production of novel foods. 
  • Waste from pineapple processing could provide a range of value added ingredients for the food industry, including a new source of the enzyme bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme that is usually extracted from the stems or juice of pineapples. It has been used commercially in the food industry, dietary supplements, and the cosmetics industry – where it is known for meat tenderising, brewing, baking, and for the production of protein hydrolysates, among other things. Waste portions provides a significant yield of the enzyme with peel supplying between 29 and 40% by weight.
  1. High protein High fiber flour
  • Dried distillers grain, produced during ethanol processing has until now only found use in animal feed. The flour produced is a high protein, high fibre (36% protein and 40% fibre) ingredient that could be used as a substitute flour in a number of food applications
  • Peanut meal is the defatted, low-value, byproduct of commercial peanut oil production. Advances in enzyme technologies, coupled with new technologies to remove aflatoxin, may offer a way to produce the by-product meal, which is an excellent source of protein (containing between 45–55%).
  • Mushroom waste can boost fibre and lower glycaemic response in extruded snacks. Stalks and basal clumps retrieved from spent mushroom compost can be refined as a freeze dried powder called mushroom co-product material (MCM). The inclusion of MCM significantly increase the amount of total dietary fibre (TDF) in the extruded snacks
  1. Textiles

Forget about cotton, we could be making textiles from banana, pineapple and coconut.

  • Banana fibre: The fabric is claimed to be nearly carbon neutral and have soft texture. The material is having application in making jackets, skirts and trousers.
  • Pineapple fibre: It is used as an alternative to petroleum-based textiles. The greatest thing is that itʼs made of leaf fibres, a byproduct of the pineapple harvest. The industrial process used to produce pineapple fibre also produces biomass, which can be converted into a bio-fertiliser  and the fibre is also biodegradable.
  • Coconut fibre: A thousand coconuts can produce 10 kg of fibre. A blend of fibre with polyester is particularly good choice for sportswear
  1. Fuel and Fertilizer
  • Organic waste from companies food processing plant can be converted into a renewable natural gas. Organic waste from the plant is converted into biogas through Anaerobic Digestion process. The biogas is then purified to become renewable natural gas which can be used in the same was as conventional natural gas. The renewable natural gas displaces conventional natural gas which is used to support the energy needs of the plant operation. 
  • In addition, a high-quality fertilizer is produced as a byproduct which in turn is used to support healthy growth of local vegetation.
  1.  Molds

The designer custom-made molds with a mixture of agricultural byproducts and mushroom mycelium, can result in lightweight, biodegradable lamp shades. Mycelium is introduced into a mixture of chopped up corn stalks and seed husks, and begins to spread its white fibers and digest it. Once coated in mycelium, the mixture is broken up into particles, which can easily be packed into molds, and left to grow for a few days until it forms a completely solid structure

  1. Fats

Seed waste may be source of new fats. Fat from seed kernel ‘waste productsʼ could provide the food industry with a new source of edible oils. Eg. rambutan seed kernels provide a considerable yield of fat with high arachidonic acid content and that makes the fat highly stable to oxidation. Because of these physical and chemical characteristics, rambutan kernel fat is perfectly suited for the cosmetic and food industries. The increasing demand for oils and fats, whether for human consumption or for industrial purposes, necessitates the search for new sources of novel oils and fats. Fat extraction from seed waste could be as high as 37% by weight.

Categories
AgTech Biotech

Mycocycle, Inc. selected as finalist in the Best World Changing Idea NA, Experimental, and General Excellence categories

The winners of Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas Awards were announced on April 28, 2020, honoring the businesses, policies, projects, and concepts that are actively engaged and deeply committed to flattening the curve when it comes to the climate crisis, social injustice, or economic inequality.

Mycocycle, Inc.: Converting Waste Streams into Value Streams has been selected as a finalist in the Best World Changing Idea NA, Experimental, and General Excellence categories.

Now in its fourth year, the World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 26 winners, more than 200 finalists, and more than 500 honorable mentions—with Health and Wellness, Corporate Social Responsibility, and AI and Data among the most popular categories. A panel of eminent judges selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 3,000 entries across transportation, education, food, politics, technology, and more. The 2020 awards feature entries from across the globe, from Vancouver to Singapore to Tel Aviv.

Illustrating how some of the world’s most inventive entrepreneurs and companies are addressing grave global challenges, Fast Company’s May/June issue celebrates, among others, an electric engine for airplanes that eliminates emissions from flights—and expensive fuel from the tricky financial calculus of the airline industry; a solar-powered refrigerator that finally frees people in remote villages from daily treks to distant markets, transforming the economics of those households; an online marketplace that connects food companies with farms to buy ugly and surplus produce to fight waste; and an initiative to offset all of the carbon costs of shipping, creating a new model for e-commerce sustainability.

“I am honored and stunned to have Mycocycle recognized in one category, let alone three,” says Joanne Rodriguez, Founder and CEO of Mycocycle. “We have been working hard to shift the narrative on viewing trash as a resource to drive a more circular solution to waste management. Our ‘mushroom’ tech mimics nature’s processes in a controlled environment to do just that. If we don’t drive innovation in this field, we will continue to face a growing issue that is harmful to environments worldwide.”

Joanne Rodriguez, Founder and CEO of Mycocycle

“There seems no better time to recognize organizations that are using their ingenuity, resources, and, in some cases, their scale to tackle society’s biggest problems,” says Stephanie Mehta, editor-in chief of Fast Company. “Our journalists, under the leadership of senior editor Morgan Clendaniel, have uncovered some of the smartest and most inspiring projects of the year.”

About the World Changing Ideas Awards: World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs and is focused on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and brave concepts that make the world better. A panel of judges from across sectors choose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With a goal of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to start working on solving the problems that affect us all.

For more information about the company, please contact: Joanne Rodriguez, joanne@mycocycle.com, Founder/CEO, Mycocycle, LLC

Categories
Food Processing Strategy

10 major reasons of business failure in food processing sector

When it comes to business, food processing seems to be an obvious choice for most of the entrepreneurs. There could be a considerable number of reasons for this apparent choice. Some of the prominent ones could be:

  1. Our exposure to a range of food available in our vicinity and our food consumption habits.
  2. Media speaks a lot about food losses and food wastage in the developing and developed world.
  3. A latent and unsatisfied demand because of demand-supply mismatch.
  4. Entry of new product lines or brands in the market on a regular basis.

Despite of so much of an unmet demand and huge requirements of food for consumption, it’s difficult to understand why food processing or food related businesses fails. During the research, there were some interesting facts which came across and 10 major ones are discussed below with the list of companies who were failed in the process:

1. Raw material availabilityAngas Parkwas was active in the dried fruit processing business with its operations in the souther Australia. Due to decrease in the number of big dried fruit growers, they were forced to produce less, which further led to the closure of the unit.

2. Cheaper imports:

McCain Foods (Australia)was forced to close its potato processing plant because of cheaper imports of finished products. Input costs (potatoes, labor and electricity) were steadily increasing for potato processing and that led to surplus capacity and higher unit costs compared to the imported products. Losing competitiveness on unit economics and low prices of imported products made McCain unit unviable to sustain in the long term.

Rol-Land Farms Group (US)group was active in mushroom processing business in Freetown, US. Increased labor and raw material costs with fall in margins due to market competition made mushroom  processing unprofitable, further leading to the closure of plant.

3. Regulatory environment: Heinz was manufacturing tomato ketchup, baby foods, BBQ sauce and other products in Ontario, Canada. Canada passed more stringent water and labor regulations leading to spike in prices of raw material. Neighbouring countries with less stringent norms like Chile and US had cost competitiveness over the domestic produce. This made Heinz products unviable and led to the closure of a 104 year old plant. Though this blow made Canadian authorities to think of a national food strategy to ensure Canadians have access to fresh Canadian products but it was too late.

4. Margins: Morrisons, Bos Brothers Fruit & Vegetables BV (a part of WM Morrisson Supermarket, the Netherlands) was into international trade in fruit, vegetables, flowers and plants. They were forced to terminate the company because of stiff competition from discounters like Aldi and Lidl.

5. Violence:

Stanfilco (the Philippines) was managing a 1000 acres banana plantation in the Philippines. Multiple violent incidents from armed lawless groups lead to the decision of closure of operations.

Nakashin Davao International (a Japanese company) closed down its frozen fruit operations in Davao city (the Philippines). The reason for the closure was labor agitation. Workers were demanding reinstatement and regularisation which was not acceptable to the company.

6. Consumer demand:

Ready Pac Produce Inc. (US) closed down the Salinas Valley Plant because of slow down in consumer demand for iceberg lettuce.

Treehouse Foods, Inc. (US) closed two of its plants at Azusa (California) and Ripon (Wisconsin). Declining consumer demand led to the discontinuation of the manufacture of sugar wafer products (bars, cookies and snacks).

7. Centralisation: Companies are more interested to manage fewer plants because of higher economies of scale. This concept leads to centralisation of operations with higher capacities. Saputo (Canada) closed down three of its milk processing facilities in eastern Canada and Saputo (Germany) closed down its cheese manufacturing unit in Quebec, Germany to increase capacity utilisation at other units. The efforts were meant to pursue additional efficiencies and lower costs. The process created more centralised operations with higher efficiencies.

8. Capacity underutilisation: . Economic unviability of the plant due to under-utilized capacity lead to the closure of Del Monte Foods (US) vegetable production and canning facility in Sampson County.

9. Single customer: Lonrho Fresh (South Africa) was into cut fruit and vegetable business and working on very thin profit margins. 70% of its sales were dependent on single retail player’ Pick and Pay’. Losing out some big business from their biggest customer, ‘Pick and Pay’ made the business unviable for Lonrho Fresh.

10. Dependability on subsidiesTINE (Norway) decided to close its facilities of Jarlsberg Cheese in Norway as export subsidies in Norway are being phased out by 2020. Increase in domestic competition and loss of export subsidies were expected to make TINE operations inefficient in Norway.

Above examples illustrates the importance of supply, demand, efficiencies, diversification, human resource, subsidies, trade, trends, consumer health and other critical factors in determining the viability of a unit.

For running a food processing plant, everything has to be well organised and planned, otherwise a single problem could make you out of the business.

Categories
AgTech FoodTech

Singapore Food Bowl aims to help regional agri-food tech startups

GROW’s Singapore Food Bowl program aims to help regional agri-food tech startups fast track their growth trajectory and commercialise novel technologies specifically relevant to Singapore’s food security agenda. The 12-week virtual accelerator allows for the local ecosystem to make a change together, by forming a cohort of local and regional startups to address the challenges and opportunities in food security and supply chain highlighted by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Singapore Food Bowl is targeting startups focused on technologies to accelerate & improve the production of Proteins (animal & alternative) and Leafy greens (controlled environment agriculture) as well as solutions that address Food Waste, Sustainable Packaging and Digital Supply Chains.

If you’re developing technologies that can materially improve productivity in the areas aligned with Singapore’s 30×30 food pillars, namely protein production and leafy greens,

Startups incorporated in Singapore or based in Asia-Pacific and having a minimum viable product (Pre-Seed to Seed stage in terms of funding) are eligible to apply for the accelerator program. Applications for the program can be filled by up to 7th of June.

Read more at Grow

Categories
AgTech Biotech

Precision injection system for plants

Oranges, olives, and bananas are already under threat in many areas due to diseases that affect plants’ circulatory systems and that cannot be treated by applying pesticides. A new method developed by engineers at MIT may offer a starting point for delivering life-saving treatments to plants ravaged by such diseases. The method uses an array of microneedles made of a silk-based biomaterial to deliver nutrients, drugs, or other molecules to specific parts of the plant. The work started in response to a request from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for ideas on how to address the citrus greening crisis, which is threatening the collapse of a $9 billion industry.

The microneedles designed for human use were intended to biodegrade naturally in the body’s moisture, but plants have far less available water, so the material didn’t dissolve and was not useful for delivering the pesticide or other macromolecules into the phloem. The researchers had to design a new material, but they decided to stick with silk as its basis. That’s because of silk’s strength, its inertness in plants (preventing undesirable side effects), and the fact that it degrades into tiny particles that don’t risk clogging the plant’s internal vasculature systems.

The technology has potential to be used to bioengineer disease-resistant varieties of important crops. In experiments with tobacco the researchers were able to inject Agrobacterium to alter the plant’s deoxyribonucleic acid – a typical bioengineering tool, but delivered in a new and precise way.

Read more at MIT News

Categories
Food Safety Trade

India allows in-transit cold treatment for Australian Fruits

The Indian government has announced market improvements to allow in-transit cold treatment of Australian top fruit, summer fruit and table grapes. Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says India’s approval of in-transit cold treatment of a variety of fruits is a major breakthrough for Australia’s growers. This approval to use in-transit cold treatment is expected to boost export volumes of Australian fruits such as table grapes, apple, pears and summer fruits.

The internationally accepted commercial cold treatment requirement for fruit flies is a minimum uninterrupted fruit pulp temperature and exposure time combination. The minimum cold treatment temperature for fruit flies in grapes, pears, plums and nectarines destined for India is 10 days at or below 0,0°C (32°F). For Ceratitis capitata, Mediterranean fruit fly, the treatment schedule is -3°C or below for 20 days and for Bactrocera trying, Queensland fruit fly, the treatment schedule is -3°C or below for 16 days.

Manual of Importing Country Requirements, Australia

The main benefit of cold treating products as it is transported, it gets to the market quicker and the exporter can charge a premium based on increased freshness. India offers a massive market of young, health conscious and vegetarian consumers seeking high quality fresh and safe fruit and vegetables. In 2019, Australia exported to India $830k worth of table grapes, $352k apples and pears and $180k summer fruit.

In addition to this, Indian government also approved phosphine fumigation of malting barley. Fumigation using phosphine will save industry up to $10 per tonne exported compared to treatment with methyl bromide. There has been growth in the consumption of beer in India and Australia is known worldwide for its high-quality malting barley. The Indian malt market is estimated at 500,000 tonnes, worth over $100 million dollars, and it is anticipated Australia could gain a fair proportion of that market in 2021.

Read more at Australian Government Media

Categories
Food Security Investments

ADQ’s strategy to support the UAE’s agri-food ecosystem

Abu Dhabi’s, ADQ has agreed to acquire a 50 per cent stake to buy 50% stake in agri-food specialist Al Dahra Holding. Al Dahra is a prominent multinational leader in agribusiness, specializing in the cultivation, production and trading of animal feed and essential food commodities and end-to-end supply chain management. Serving a large customer base spanning the Government and Commercial sectors, Al Dahra has a widespread geographic footprint, with a workforce of 5,000 employees, operating in over 20 countries and catering to more than 45 markets, with a leading position in Asia and the Middle East.

“Food and agri-business is of importance to ADQ’s strategy because it is high growth and important for Abu Dhabi’s socio-economic agenda. Since 1995 when Al Dahra was founded in the UAE, it has grown into a global food and animal feed company and is a pillar of Abu Dhabi and our country’s food security mandate. Al Dahra will complement our existing efforts to extend ADQ’s reach in food production and distribution. With our investment, Al Dahra will be well positioned to further expand its reach and footprint while enabling Abu Dhabi to reach its goals of continuing to diversify its food sources and growing into a regional food hub.”

H.E. Mohammed Hassan Alsuwaidi, Chief Executive Officer of ADQ

Al Dahra owns and operates 15 state-of-the-art forage processing and baling facilities globally. The company also cultivates different types of fresh produce, including a wide range of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains with infrastructure to facilitate grains’ trading. Al Dahra operates three rice mills with capacity to supply 500,000 tons annually in India, Pakistan and the UAE.

The company also owns shares in three flour mills in Greece and Bulgaria that have the capacity to supply 500,000 tons annually. Additionally, the company has an olive oil production plant in Morocco with an annual production capacity of 10,000 tons, and dairy farms in Serbia and the UAE with 20,000 cows and a production capacity of 80 million liters of milk annually.

Read more at Al Dahra

Categories
Agriculture Strategy

Farmers to produce what the market wants

For the first time, the state government is going to regulate the production of crops in India. Farmers in Telangana are going to produce what the market wants. It’s a big move in the right direction and will set ground for a new beginning of Demand Driven Agriculture. This Kharif season, the farmers will be asked to grow paddy on 50 lakh acres (including the Telangana Sona variety on 10 lakh acres of land), cotton on 50 lakh acres and red gram on 10 lakh acres. Farm lands nearer to urban areas will grow vegetables and horticultural crops to tap the demand.

“One should cultivate crops which sell well. They don’t buy whatever you produce”.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao

Asking the farmers to strictly adhere to the cropping pattern, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has said that government sops such as ‘Rythu Bandhu’ (₹5,000 each for farmers in both the seasons for every acre they own) will be stopped to the farmers who don’t conform to the cropping plan.

Farmers base next years supply purely on the previous price and assume that next year’s price will be the same as last year (adaptive expectations). These fluctuations in price may cause some farmers to go out of business.

Limitations of Cobweb theory

As the government is attempting to go beyond advisory and extension roles, it will revamp the Department of Agriculture to take up additional responsibilities. The government will also bring in necessary amendments to the Seed Act.

Read more at The Hindu Business Line

Categories
Bankruptcy Commodities

Phoenix Commodities has gone into liquidation after amassing $400m in potential trading losses

Phoenix Commodities, a trader of agricultural products with offices in Dubai and Singapore, is being liquidated after amassing more than US$400 million (S$567 million) in potential trading losses. It was valued at $1.1bn-$1.24bn as recently as January, according to a document filed by its provisional liquidators.. The Phoenix Group, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands, operated globally with about 100 corporate entities located in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America and employed over 2,500 people.

First Abu Dhabi bank reports $73.3m exposure to Phoenix Commodities. Emirates NBD, Mashreq, HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered were also owed millions by the company.

ArabianBusiness.com

Phoenix Commodities began as a rice trading business in 2001. Its executive chairman, Gaurav Dhawan, became the majority shareholder in 2006 and expanded its activities. It had three main divisions – agrifoods, resources (coal and metals trading) and consumer brands. Phoenix traded 12m tonnes of commodities and goods last year and claims to be one of the largest rice distribution companies in the world.