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AgTech Investments

Agri-Innovation Center in Southern Israel

Arieli Capital has signed a cooperation agreement with Ramat Negev Regional Council and Ramat Negev Industries, for the establishment of an agri-tech innovation center, within the jurisdiction of the regional council in southern Israel. The objective of the innovation centre is to expand the economic potential of the region’s agricultural sector and the agricultural research and development capabilities developed in the region in recent decades.

$5 million will be invested in the project. The center will focus on areas of expertise of the region including general agriculture, desert agriculture, marine agriculture, medical cannabis and more. The Eilat Technology Center (ETC), a subsidiary of Arieli Capital will take the lead in this venture, with the participation of the Ramat Negev Regional Council and other investors.

Ramat Hanegev is one of the largest and most successful agricultural regions in Israel. It covers 1.050 million acres and accounts for about 22 percent of Israel’s total land area. 

5 to 10 promising startups will be selected by senior officials in the agricultural and investment fields to participate in the center’s ag-tech accelerator. Entrepreneurs will be offered several assistance options including financial support and mentoring by technology and business experts from the agriculture and food industries, access to labs, and R&D facilities with the overseeing of the commercialization process.

Read more at Globes

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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 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
AgTech Research

Yanmar develops modular robotic platform for agriculture

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.

SMASH project objectives include the development of a modular robotic platform that uses the latest information communications technology to examine crops and soils, analyse gathered information and provide clear, actionable information to farmers to support crop management.

Yanmar’s agro-bot is to be used to monitor and control crops, take soil samples for analysis and accurately target agricultural chemicals for precision application.

Agriculture in the future will see increasing use of scientifically precise farming techniques, where automated ‘agro-bots’ monitor, treat and work the land, using advanced technology designed to help maximise yields and minimise disease.

Read more at Ymedia

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Investments

Growthwell Group raises US$8 m for scale-up of plant-based alternatives

Growthwell, a leading manufacturer of plant-based alternatives for meat and seafood for the South East Asian market, announced that it has raised US$8 million in a funding round led by Temasek, with other investors DSG Consumer Partners, Insignia Ventures, Genesis Ventures, Brandify and Mr Koh Boon Hwee participating. The proceeds from this funding round will accelerate Growthwell’s growth into alternative proteins and future food solutions, taking its vision of sustainable plant-based choices to a global stage.

Growthwell’s growth plans include the setup of an end-to-end technology centre in Singapore focusing on R&D and manufacturing. Growthwell’s vision is to be Asia’s leading plant nutrition food tech company, with an aim to care for 100 million lives with sustainable and nutritious plant-based choices while reducing the world’s overall meat consumption.

Read more at MediaOutReach

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Investments

African Development Bank’s seed-bulking scheme boosts cassava yields in Zambia

For centuries, African farmers across the continent have grown cassava. But Zambia’s cassava growers were not deriving as much out of the crop as was possible. Farmers in the southern African country used low-quality planting materials and suffered from poor harvests leading to hunger and poverty across many of the country’s villages. To tackle this problem, the African Development Bank, through its Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation in the Savannahs (TAAT-S) flagship initiative, implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), provided Zambian farmers with a solution known as “seed bulking”.

This involves collecting seeds from a target crop and then growing them in a controlled setting. Using this method, farmers can multiply their bank of seeds, making them more secure and able to scale-up productivity. Five types of high-yielding cassava seeds were successfully introduced in an effort to boost yields and make the landlocked nation less reliant on food imports. Experts believe that modified seeds could help millions of smallholder farmers to get bigger harvests and earn extra cash.

Read more at AFDB

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Articles

Factory Farming – A glimpse of future of agriculture

Farming is going to be the next Manufacturing. Farms, are becoming more like factories: tightly controlled operations for turning out reliable products, immune as far as possible from the vagaries of nature. 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. Since most land suitable for farming is already farmed, this growth must come from higher yields.

What are the changes happening in the way we grow our food?

  1. Protected cultivation: By growing plants in warehouses, shipping containers, and city-adjacent greenhouses, next-gen farmers claim they are able to eliminate the threat of unpredictable weather, waste less water, reduce transportation costs and fasten the production cycle.
  2. Data driven agriculture: 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.
  3. Lab grown meat: There may be an even better way to grow meat, the animal tissue most wanted by consumers, than on animals themselves. This means growing the cells in reactor vessels filled with nutrient broth. To make it similar to animal meat, the cells must be attached to fat and other related components, so the idea is to grow them on small spheres floating in the vessels. Fat cells, which add juiciness to meat, are cultured separately. Whether it’s chicken created in the lab, crickets and beetles ground up in energy bars or plant-based burgers that ‘bleed’ there’s no shortage of innovation when it comes to alternative proteins.
  4. Synthetic eggs: Researchers are developing synthetic egg white, using transgenic yeast to secrete the required proteins. Indeed, they hope to improve on natural egg white by tweaking the protein mix. They also hope their synthetic white will be acceptable to people vegans and some vegetarians, who do not currently eat eggs.
  5. Leather grown using biotechnology: Factory-grown leather promises several advantages over skins taken from animals. One is that it can be made in convenient sheets with straight edges, rather than being constrained by the irregular shapes that animals come in. Another is that it is more consistent than the natural stuff. It is devoid of the scars, marks and other defects to which real skin is inevitably prone.
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Uncategorized

Future crops could make their own pesticides

A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists are trying to design crops that kill weeds by exuding a natural herbicide from their roots. In other words, they’re creating oilseed and cereal crops that can control weeds — on their own. “It’s a complicated thing, because we’re trying to make plants produce something that is poisonous, and probably even poisonous to them,” said Scott Baerson, a molecular biologist in Oxford, Mississippi. Since 2000, Baerson has been studying sorgoleone, a natural herbicide released into the soil from the roots of sorghum plants. The chemical suppresses nearby plants, helping sorghum out-compete its rivals.

If they’re able to pull it off, the technology could be a game changer. It won’t eliminate the need for herbicides, but it should “significantly reduce the amount” applied to cropland. This agricultural technology is comparable to the technology of self-driving cars.

Read more at TheWesternProducer

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Uncategorized

Study Suggests East Africa’s Ancient Pastoralists Processed Milk

A statement released by Washington University in St. Louis in St. Louis, scientists analyzed residues on pottery recovered from prehistoric sites in Kenya and Tanzania, and detected traces of cooked milk, meat, and plants. Grillo said the ability for adults to digest milk, known as lactase persistence, had been thought to have evolved in East Africa about 5,000 years ago, based upon previous genetic studies and the bones of cattle, sheep, and goats found at archaeological sites.

Most people don’t think about the fact that we are not really designed to drink milk as adults — most mammals can’t. People who had mutations that allowed them to digest fresh milk survived better in Africa.

Read more at The Source

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Uncategorized

Cellular Agriculture – cell-based technology to produce milk.

Cell-based processes of creating clean milk completely bypass the environmental degradation and animal welfare issues of industrial dairy. The approach has the ability to match nutritional content, taste, and quality of milk obtained traditionally. Acellular technology works by culturing mammary cells in vitro and inducing their natural ability to produce all components of milk. The first step involves obtaining stem cells from sources such as milk. They are then transferred into an environment where they convert into mammary gland cells. The mammary gland cells interact with a special formula which causes the cells to lactate. The end product – milk is obtained through a filtration process.

Milk from plants like almond, soy and oat is increasingly popular as a good source of protein. However, the milk from these alternative sources lacks one or more components of dairy milk, therefore, are not able to recreate the functionality of milk, translating to other dairy products like cheese, butter and yoghurt.

Read more at Technology Networks