Categories
Food Security Research

Entries for the 2021 Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security are now open

Olam International, in partnership with Agropolis Fondation, is targeting ground-breaking scientific research that can deliver transformational impacts within global agriculture. Entries for the 2021 Prize are now open and the winner will receive an unrestricted US$75,000 grant for the scaling up of proven research.

Applications are welcomed from academic or research institutions, civil societies and the private sector, and can focus on any region, environment, crop or part of the agricultural supply chain. Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security requires clear evidence of potential short-term impact on food availability, affordability, adequacy, and accessibility.

“At a time when the world faces a potential rise in food insecurity from the coronavirus crisis, with vulnerable parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa, most at risk, the new scientific insights and techniques being developed by research teams around the world are more significant than ever. The Olam Prize aims to support breakthrough innovations so that together we can re-imagine agriculture for greater food security.”

Sunny Verghese, Co-Founder and Group CEO at Olam 

The 2019 Prize was awarded to a pioneering landscape mapping that’s re-imagining subsistence farming in Ethiopia, co-ordinated by Dr Tomaso Ceccarelli of Wageningen Environmental Research and Dr Elias Eyasu Fantahun of Addis Ababa University. Innovation Mapping for Food Security (IM4FS)ii, is supporting Ethiopia’s REALISE programme to give smallholder farmers a ‘best fit’ for what to grow, where and how, with the goal of improving productivity in food insecure areas.

The 2017 Prize went to Durum wheat breeder Dr Filippo Bassi of ICARDA for his development of a strain of heat-tolerant wheat, able to withstand the 40°C temperatures of sub-Saharan Africa. Since receipt of the Prize funding, the new varieties have been well established in Senegal and Mauritania and successfully cultivated for the first time in Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and the Republic of the Gambia.

The deadline for application submissions is 23:59 CET (France) 11th January 2021. Applications received before 30 November 2020 will be considered for publicity opportunities on Olam’s corporate channels.

Applications for the program can be filled up at Olam Food Prize.

Categories
AgTech Biotech

AgTech startup Enko Chem raises $45 million to bring sustainable biopesticides to market.

Enko Chem Inc. (Enko) publicly launched after securing $45 million in a Series B round of financing, bringing its total funding raised to date to $66 million. Specialised in small-molecule pest control products, the startup’s tech platform is used to discover new ways to protect crops from pests and diseases.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was driven to invest in the startup because of the potential for its technology to help smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia. The latest round attracted a strong mix of existing (Anterra Capital and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund) and new investors (Finistere Ventures, Novalis LifeSciences, Germin8 Ventures, TO Ventures Food).

“We’re committed to ensuring that smallholder farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have access to affordable innovations that can safely and sustainably control crop pests and diseases, which are likely to intensify and spread into new areas due to climate change.”

Dr. Vipula Shukla, Senior Program Officer, Agriculture, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Instead of using traditional high-throughput methods to screen molecules for pesticide activity, it uses DNA-encoded libraries to select candidates from among billions of molecules. The technique, pioneered in the drug industry, is less expensive than older methods and allows researchers to run parallel experiments with different targets.

“You can improve safety and outcomes if you know a lot more about the target in the pest you are trying to inhibit. It gives us options to combat pesticide resistance and allows us to address safety and efficacy at the very start of the process.”

Jacqueline Heard, Founder and CEO Enko Chem Inc.

The startup’s launch comes as the need for pesticide alternatives and crop protection becomes more pressing. The factors behind the increase in biopesticides demand are the restrictions on chemical pesticides, the need for residue-free products, and an increase in environmental awareness.

At a time when more than 600 pest species have developed some form of resistance and threaten yield losses of up to 40 percent, Enko is pioneering a new approach by integrating complementary technologies to develop improved products that meet or exceed the safety and sustainability demands of farmers, consumers and regulators around the globe.

Read more at Enko

Categories
AgTech Biotech

Pluton Biosciences selected for Global Illumina Accelerator

Pluton Biosciences is a microbial testing and discovery research company dedicated to finding unique microbes to replace synthetic chemical applications in agriculture and pest control with eco-friendly natural products. Pluton’s industry disrupting process patches critical “cracks” in the Research and Development pipeline by speeding the introduction of novel and beneficial bioproducts to market. Pluton Biosciences, was chosen for Illumina Accelerator, which partners with global entrepreneurs to build breakthrough genomics startups.

With extensive mentorship, financial support, and access to sequencing systems, reagents, and lab space, Illumina is building a dynamic ecosystem to help genomics startups, including therapeutics, diagnostics, agriculture, synthetic biology, forensics, and direct-to-consumer applications, launch in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Cambridge, UK.

“Pluton is thrilled to be the first St. Louis-based biotech company to be chosen by Illumina Accelerator. The opportunity to build our company in San Francisco, a global center of the life sciences industry, is terrific, and to have an investment from Illumina, the world’s largest sequencing company, is even better.”

Charlie Walch, Pluton CEO

Pluton uses Micromining®, its high-throughput microbial discovery platform, to identify and isolate novel bacteria, fungi, and viruses within months and not years, which dramatically improves R&D throughput for agtech companies and producers of pesticides.

“We are proud to partner with Pluton in the 11th funding cycle of Illumina Accelerator San Francisco Bay Area. Pluton’s experienced team and unique approach to harness the power of next generation DNA sequencing will uncover new microbial insights for environmental and plant health.”

Amanda Cashin, Co-founder and Global Head of Illumina Accelerator

Illumina Accelerator is accepting applications for the next global funding cycle, which are due by August 1, 2020. To learn more and apply, please visit Illumina website.

Categories
AgTech Machine Learning

AI-driven agritech startup, Connecterra, raised €7.8 million to make the dairy industry more productive

Dutch startup Connecterra has secured €7.8 million ($8.75 million) in a Series B funding round from a group of investors including ADM Capital, Kersia, Pymwymic, Breed Reply and Sistema_VC. Connecterra, founded in 2014, aims to empower animal farmers of all sizes to increase productivity, while reducing the substantial impact that animal agriculture has on our planet.

Connecterra is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and operates in 16 countries. The €7.8 million raised is the biggest ever series B funding round completed by a Dutch AgTech company active in farm animal technology. 

Connecterra’s Intelligent Dairy Farmers Assistant “Ida” is an artificial intelligence-powered service that uses data collected from dairy cows to offer meaningful insights and recommendations. With the funds the startup Connecterra will accelerate the growth of its predictive AI platform, ‘Ida’. So far ‘Ida’ has evolved from sensor tech to a full-stack technology and AI platform, combining proprietary sensor hardware, animal data, third-party enterprise data, and machine-learning algorithms.

“Empowering farmers and the industry with a connected, AI driven platform is a necessity for the future of food production. The COVID-19 outbreak has brought into sharp focus the weaknesses in our food system that is disconnected and faces threats from climate change and a dwindling labor workforce. With the support of our top-class investors, customers and partners, we are well positioned to democratize access to our technology to millions of farmers across the globe.”

Yasir Khokhar, CEO of Connecterra

Connecterra has seen adoption of the Ida platform by industry giants such as Danone, Bayer and food safety expert Kersia. The technology is being used to create sustainable farming models that have eliminated the use of hormones, reduced antibiotic usage by up to 50%, and increased farm efficiency. The platform is also part of the Farming for Generations (F4G) consortium led by Danone, aimed at implementing regenerative agriculture practices.

The latest funding will equip Connecterra with the funding needed to grow its presence in dairy leading regions such as Europe, North America and New Zealand and further scale out and develop the AI models and technology behind Ida.

Read more at Connecterra

Categories
Food Security Regenerative Agriculture

Soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal has been selected as this year’s World Food Prize Laureate

Eminent Indian-American soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal has been selected as this year’s World Food Prize Laureate and will receive a $250,000 award for his work in promoting soils for sustainable development. Dr Lal, 75, is named as the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate for developing and mainstreaming a soil-centric approach to increasing food production that conserves natural resources and mitigates climate change.

He is helping millions of small farmers around the world with his work on increasing food production and recycling of nutrients.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo

Dr. Lal spent 18 years at CGIAR Research Center in Africa, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), where he spearheaded research demonstrating that soil organic matter and carbon are crucial to sustaining and enhancing the quantity and quality of food production. He transformed and innovated techniques such as no-tillage, cover cropping, mulching and agroforestry, which contributed to protecting soil from the elements, conserving water, and returning nutrients, carbon and organic matter to the soil.

Soils of the world must be part of any agenda to address climate change, as well as food and water security. I think there is now a general awareness of soil carbon, an awareness that soil isn’t just a medium for plant growth.

Dr. Rattan Lal, 2020 World Food Prize Laureate 

A faculty member at Ohio State for 33 years, Lal was recognized for his contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. In 2019, Lal became the first soil scientist and the first person at Ohio State to receive the Japan Prize. A year before, he received the 2018 World Agriculture Prize and the 2018 Glinka World Soil Prize.

“Every year we are astounded by the quality of nominations for the Prize, but Dr. Lal’s stellar work on management and conservation of agriculture’s most cherished natural resource, the soil, set him apart.”

Gebisa Ejeta, chair of the World Food Prize Selection Committee

Beginning in the 1970s with his research in West Africa, Lal has discovered ways to reduce deforestation, control soil erosion, and enrich soil by managing a critical element in the soil: organic carbon. His research has provided the scientific foundation to show that soil can not only solve the global challenge of food insecurity but also global warming.

Lal’s models indicate that restoring soil health can lead to multiple benefits by the year 2100, including more than doubling the global annual grain yield to feed the growing world population, while decreasing the land area under grain cultivation by 30 percent and decreasing total fertilizer use by half. Making this a reality will enormously benefit farmers, food consumers and the environment.

Read more at The World Food Prize Foundation

Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
Agriculture Food Security Regenerative Agriculture

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

“Regenerative Agriculture” describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. It involves, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping, to increase food production, farmers’ income and especially, topsoil.

Only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues. About a third of the world’s soil has already been degraded and causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques and deforestation. Generating three centimeters of top soil takes about a 1,000 years.

The loss of the world’s fertile soil and biodiversity, along with the loss of indigenous seeds and knowledge, pose a mortal threat to our future survival. Without protecting and regenerating the soil on our 4 billion acres of cultivated farmland, 8 billion acres of pastureland, and 10 billion acres of forest land, it will be impossible to feed the world. Allan Savory gave a TED talk on fighting desertification and reversing climate change in 2013.