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AgTech Webinar

AgTech Webinar: Innovation and technology in food and farming

Globally we are fast-moving more toward a technologized society as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown in medicine, education and the way we work. Agriculture too is at the forefront of this revolution with a fledgling sector called agtech. Farmers challenged by climate change, labor shortage, water and land supply shortage and the depletion of arable land, have already been steadily turning to innovation and technology such as blockchain, automation and robotics.

Come join a special panel moderated by Amy Wu that will feature women entrepreneurs who are creating solutions to help farmers succeed. The panel and discussion will address questions including achieving a balance between technology and human labor, how innovation can solve food supply chain issues, and the ways technology is creating a potential paradigm shift in agriculture.

Presenters:

Pamela (Pam) Marrone spent her career focused on biologically based products for pest management; for the last 30 years in Davis CA, where she started and led three biological crop protection companies. She started Marrone Bio Innovations in 2006 to discover and develop bio-based products for pest management and plant health. The company was listed on NASDAQ in 2013 (MBII), has commercialized 10 products, and is growing rapidly. Pam received the “Sustie” Award from EcoFarm in 2019.

Martha Montoya is CEO and founder of AgTools, which she founded in 2017 as a food supply SaaS platform that provides real-time intelligence to farmers and buyers with the goal of reducing food waste globally. The platform takes into consideration over 75 different market variables from weather to transportation on over 500 different commodities to help growers better plan their crops. The company has 14 employees throughout five offices in the U.S., Mexico and Colombia.

Penelope Nagel is a 9th generation farmer, COO and co-founder of Persistence Data Mining Inc. (PDMI). PDMI is a private company that uses hyperspectral imaging for timely collection of soil data related to spatial variability of soil texture. PDMI has developed algorithms accurately estimating nutrient availability based on hyperspectral data, key to determining where and how much nutrients need to be applied.

Moderator:

Amy Wu is an award-winning writer for the women’s ag and agtech movement. She is the Founder & Chief Content Director of from Farms to Incubators, a multimedia platform that uses documentary, video, photography and the written word to tell the stories of women leaders and innovators in agtech. It has a mission of expanding the profiles of women in food, farming, and tech. The documentary and stories have been screened and presented at SXSW, Techonomy, the Forbes AgTech Summit, EcoFarm and The New Food Economy. Prior to starting From Farms to Incubators, Amy spent over two decades as an investigative reporter at media outfits including the USA Today Network, Time magazine, and she has contributed to The New York Times, HuffPost and Wall Street Journal. She reported on agriculture and agtech for The Salinas Californian in Salinas, Calif. She sits on the Diversity Advisory Committee of EcoFarm.

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AgTech FoodTech

Attractive opportunities in Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture Market

Agriculture and farming is one of the oldest and most important professions in the world. Humanity has come a long way over the millennia in how we farm and grow crops with the introduction of various technologies. By 2050, the planet’s population is likely to rise to 9.7 billion, a rise of 2 billion from now. Along with increase in population, there is a substantial increase in the lifestyle. Those people will not only need to eat, they will want to eat better than people do now, because of higher incomes. However, only 4% additional land will come under cultivation by then.

In this context, use of latest technological solutions to make farming more efficient, remains one of the greatest imperatives. Farming is becoming a branch of matrix algebra. Farm operations involve a set of variables, such as the weather, soil’s moisture levels and nutrient content, competition to crops from weeds, threats to their health from pests and diseases, and the costs of taking action to deal with these things. If the algebra is done correctly, the yield gets optimised resulting in maximization of profit.

Agriculture is seeing rapid adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) both in terms of agricultural products and in-field farming techniques. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) sees a lot of direct application across sectors, it can also bring a paradigm shift in how we see farming today. The industry is turning to AI technologies to help yield healthier crops, control pests, monitor soil and growing conditions, organize data for farmers, help with workload, and improve a wide range of agriculture-related tasks in the entire food supply chain.

The overall AI in agriculture market is projected to grow from an estimated USD 1.0 billion in 2020 to USD 4.0 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 25.5% between 2020 and 2026. The market growth is propelled by the increasing implementation of data generation through sensors and aerial images for crops, increasing crop productivity through deep-learning technology, and government support for the adoption of modern agricultural techniques.

Markets and Markets

Recent Developments in AI in Agriculture include:

  1. South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics raised US$5.5 million in funding from Naspers Foundry. Cape Town-based Aerobotics, uses aerial imagery from drones and satellites, and blends them with machine learning algorithms. The startup’s cloud-based application Aeroview provides farmers with insights, scout mapping and other tools to mitigate damage to tree and vine crops from pest and disease.
  2. Insurance Australia Group has bought a multimillion-dollar stake in Digital Agriculture Services. Digital Agriculture Services is a rural technology company based in Melbourne. 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.
  3. Yanmar R&D Europe, with its European research facility based in Florence, Italy, focuses on a variety of field-based studies to bring added value to the agriculture industry. This include the two-year, four-million Euros ‘SMASH’ (Smart Machine for Agricultural Solutions Hightech) project being carried out in cooperation with 10 technology partners to develop a mobile agricultural ‘eco-system’ to monitor, analyse and manage agricultural crops.

Some of the companies active in AI in agriculture includes International Business Machines Corp., Deere & Company, Microsoft Corporation, Farmers Edge Inc., The Climate Corporation, Descartes Labs, Inc., AgEagle Aerial Systems, aWhere Inc., Gamaya Inc., Precision Hawk Inc., Granular, Inc., Prospera Technologies, Cainthus Corporation, Taranis, Resson Inc., FarmBot Inc., Connecterra B.V., Vision Robotics Corporation, Harvest Croo, LLC, Autonomous Tractor Corporation, Trace Genomics, Inc., VineView, CropX Inc., Tule Technologies Inc., Blue River technology, FarmBot and PEAT GmbH .

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AgTech Investments

South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics raised US$5.5 million in funding from Naspers Foundry

Cape Town-based Aerobotics, uses aerial imagery from drones and satellites, and blends them with machine learning algorithms. This helps in early problem detection and offer personalised solutions to tree and wine farmers and optimise crop performance. The startup’s cloud-based application Aeroview provides farmers with insights, scout mapping and other tools to mitigate damage to tree and vine crops from pest and disease.

Food security was of paramount importance, and the Aerobotics platform provided a positive contribution towards helping to sustain it. This importance has been highlighted further in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with agriculture considered globally as critical infrastructure

Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, South Africa CEO at Naspers

Aerobotics uses drone flights to track tree health and size, using multispectral, high resolution drone imagery. This helps in identification of areas needing attention by a real time comparison with historical satellite health data, and make data driven decisions on the farm, using AI-based analytics platform. Aerobotics provide tools to make actionable decisions on the farm for

  • Orchard Management
  • Problem Tree Identification
  • Pest and Disease Management
  • Yield Management

Aerobotics has demonstrated success in the ability to collect and analyse tree and fruit-level information, which are critical to the agricultural industry. The services are very relevant to commercial-scale farmers and crop insurance companies who require accurate tree-level information about their clients.

Read more at Disrupt Africa.

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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

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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

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AgTech Investments

Yamaha Motor Ventures invest AUD $11 million into Australian AgTech, The Yield

The Yield Technology Solutions (“The Yield”), a leading Australian agricultural technology company, received investment of AUD $11 million, led by Yamaha Motor Ventures. Yamaha Motor Ventures is the strategic business development and investment arm of global technology organisation, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. The Yield is developing its proprietary digital application providing microclimate data and predictive insights to support critical production decisions for large commercial growers in the specialty crops industry.

“The Yield is poised to be The Climate Corp of horticulture and we look forward to supporting the team’s strategic plan to scale its data-driven solution to the global specialty crop market.”

Yamaha Motor Ventures 

The Yield works closely with produce growers to design their products and committed to solving real challenges – at farm level and throughout the food chain. They are on a mission to transform food and farming practices by building secure, scalable digital technology. The Yield’s Sensing+ combines sensors and analytics to provide information and predictions in easy-to-use apps that help large commercial growers make important on-farm decisions like when to irrigate, feed, plant, protect and harvest.

Read more at The Yield

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AgTech Blockchain

Blockchain for Food and Agriculture

Blockchain is an emerging technology allowing universal transactions among distributed parties, without the need of intermediaries. Blockchain is not a single technology but uses a combination of technologies that have a considerable history in computer science and in commercial applications like public/private key cryptography, cryptographic hash functions, database technologies especially distributed databases, consensus algorithms, and decentralised processing. Blockchain could pave way for a transparent supply chain of food, by facilitating the sharing of data between disparate actors in a food value chain.

Despite huge positives of the technology and the great interest it has received from public and private parties in general, some critical questions like accessibility, governance, technical aspects, policies, data ownership and regulatory frameworks need to be addressesed for its mass adoption.

Some common ways in which blockchain is applied in food and agriculture value chains are

Supply Chain Traceability: It enables companies to quickly track unsafe products back to their source and see where else they have been distributed. This can prevent illness and save lives, as well as reducing the cost of product recalls.

Example: Aglive – An Australian livestock tracking platform, has completed a pilot that monitored shipments of beef to China using blockchain. The pilot saw cattle tracked from Macka’s cattle farm in regional New South Wales to an abattoir located in the same state. From there, frozen beef products were tracked across the supply chain as the meat was transported by land freight interstate to Queensland, and then shipped to Shanghai — ensuring that the products were stored under safe conditions throughout transit. The products were then distributed to grocery stores in Shanghai.

Agricultural Commodities Trade: Commodities management involves deal documents, contracts, letters of credit, supply chain finance, traceability and government certifications. Blockchain is enabling these data management challenges and payment time lags.

Example: AgriDigital – A blockchain-based and integrated commodity management solution for the global grains industry.

Digital Marketplace: Digital marketplaces allow buyers and growers to connect directly, increasing the amount of profits that go to the farmers, and investors to invest directly into farms producing commodities and then trade on that investment.

Example: Twiga Foods Ltd – The company, buys fresh produce from 17,000 farmers and processed food from manufacturers and then delivers it to 8,000 vendors, most of whom are women.

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Biotech

Biotalys NV developed biofungicide, with potential to address increasing fungicide resistance

Biotalys NV, a food and crop protection company, announced the results from more than 100 field trials of its innovative biofungicide, BioFun-1, which is on track to launch in the United States in 2022. BioFun-1, an eco-friendly and innovative biofungicide, provides growers with a novel mode of action to address increasing fungicide resistance, with potential for pre- and post-harvest applications. Biotalys aims to help farmers protect yields and reduce food waste by both preventing crop loss and extending post-harvest protection with sustainable and safe products.

In 2018, Biotalys demonstrated that BioFun-1 provided competitive and consistent protection against Botrytis cinerea when compared with commercial chemical fungicides and outperforming biologicals, in multiple crops and regions. Botrytis cinerea and powdery mildew, considerably impact yields and quality in a wide range of fruit and vegetables crops, and are responsible for significant food losses.

Biofungicide provides growers with a reliable, novel mode of action product to maximize the yield of high-quality fruits and vegetables. The extended shelf-life of tasty, appealing fruits and vegetables with substantially reduced residue levels adds significant value by addressing the needs of both consumers and growers, reducing food waste and securing global export.

About Biotalys: It is a rapidly growing and transformative Food and Crop Protection company developing a new generation of protein-based biocontrol solutions, shaping the future of sustainable and safe food supply. It was founded in 2013 as a spin-off from the VIB (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) and its headquarters are located in the vibrant biotech cluster in Ghent, Belgium.

Read more at GlobeNewswire

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AgTech Biotech

MicroGen Biotech has raised $3.8 million to ensure better food safety and soil health

MicroGen Biotech has raised $3.8 million (€3.47 million) in a funding round led by a number of top US and European agtech investors. MicroGen Biotech is an Irish biotech startup company founded in 2012 by Dr. Xuemei Germaine and a spin-out of the Institute of Technology Carlow. It utilises patented isolation and high-throughput screening methods to isolate functional, high-performance microbiomes for application in agricultural crop production and environmental remediation.

It has a large database of microbes for degrading/immobilising a range of targeted pollutants from soil and for promoting plant growth. Its proprietary microbiome technology blocks the uptake of heavy metals by crops on land that has been contaminated.

MicroGen Biotech focuses on the global market in the Agri-Cleantech sector with specific target market in China. One fifth of Chinese arable land is polluted and stressed, the country has put in place a national safe food and clean soil program to reduce heavy metals. The China Soil Pollution Control Law 2019 encourages the prioritization of bioremediation measures to prevent pollutants from entering food crops.

MicroGen Biotech focuses on three major solutions:

  1. Environmental Bioremediation: Bioremediation is a treatment process that uses microorganisms (including bacteria) and plants to degrade toxic contaminants into less toxic or non-toxic substances.
  2. Plant Growth Promotion: A critically important component of the soil/plant microbiome are Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria or PGPB. Application of PGPBs to crop plants have been shown to significantly increase crop yield when used in low input agricultural systems.
  3. Stressed Agricultural Soil: Stressed soil can be a major inhibitor of agricultural production and globally represents a considerable loss in potential crop yield. Stresses can be biotic (e.g. plant pathogens and insect pests) or abiotic (e.g drought, salinity, heavy metals).

Read more at CarlowLive

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Food Safety Supply Chain

It’s not the food supply chain that’s breaking, it’s the meat supply chain

Supply lines across the food industry have been impacted by the coronavirus. Shuttered restaurants, university dining halls, workplace food providers, and more have all strained the food supply chain. In particular, the meat industry has suffered the hardest hit. In addition to closures of many of its largest purchasers, COVID-19 outbreaks inside meatpacking facilities have forced largest meat processing plants to shut down. The cold, damp conditions and crowded workstations in meatpacking plants make infectious diseases particularly hard to control.

On April 26, Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat processor, closed at least six major plants. Similar covid-19 outbreaks were reported at Danish Crown A/S, a huge pork producer; Goikoa, of Spain; Sanderson Farms Inc., America’s third-largest poultry producer, and Cargill’s High River slaughterhouse outside Calgary. The whole situation is an incontrovertible nightmare. But the pandemic is an opportunity to ask more probing questions about the nature of our system of animal agriculture.

Since COVID-19 began, we’ve seen plant-based product sales growth exceed that of animal-based products, both in meat and dairy categories. In the United States, sales of vegan meat jumped by a staggering 280% and sales of oat milk jumped by 477% in the second week of March compared to the same period last year, as the country became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. This meat crisis has become a big opportunity for plant-based protein companies that have developed healthier, safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional animal products.

Choosing a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for the environment as plant-based diets are kind to the earth and kind to animals. As is the case with plant-based meat, plant-based dairy supply chains are much better poised to respond in real-time to changing market conditions and are not vulnerable to the type of disruptions inherent in industrial animal agriculture.