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Ag Industry Brief: AeroFarms Gets $1m FFAR Grant, Nestle Acquires Plant Burger Company, Impossible Opens Facility, more

September 8, 2017

AeroFarms Gets $1m Grant From FFAR

New Jersey-based indoor vertical farming company AeroFarms has received a $1 million research grant from The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit organization established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill. AeroFarms will match the Foundation’s grant for a total commitment of  $2 million to the project. The research will focus on the relationship between stress factors on plants, the phytochemicals they produce, and the taste and texture that results. AeroFarms will collaborate with Rutgers and Cornell on the research. Read more here.

Hurricane Irma Threatens Crops

Florida is bracing for what is now a Category 4 hurricane. Irma is predicted to make landfall over the weekend and farmers and ranchers appear to be taking the threat very seriously after the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and around Southeast Texas. Some estimates have valued the crops at risk at $1.2 billion in tomatoes, oranges, green beans, cucumbers, squash, and sugarcane. Read more here.

Nestle Acquires Plant-based “Meat” Sweet Earth

Nestlé USA has agreed to acquire Sweet Earth Foods, a plant-based foods manufacturer based in Moss Landing, CA. Sweet Earth has a line of 48 plant-based products produced in a 40,000-square-foot facility at its Moss Landing headquarters. Sweet Earth’s products use plant-based proteins like seitan, tofu and legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans to create breakfasts, entrees, and meat alternatives. Read more here.

AgShift and Marrone Bio to Assess BioPesticide Impact on Product

Bio-pesticide producer Marrone Bio Innovations has joined a pilot project with AgShift, a computer vision and AI startup focusing on the food supply chain, to assess the impact of the use of biological pesticides on the quality of fresh produce. The pilot test will begin this year on strawberries in Watsonville, CA. According to the companies, the project will more efficiently produce digital and visual records of crop input treatments—such as bio-pesticides—and the resulting correlations with the produce quality. The project will also analyze the impact of other external factors, such as weather, soil and irrigation patterns on produce quality. Read more here.

Calyxt Breaks Ground in Minnesota

Gene-editing firm Calyxt has broken ground on its new 11-acre site and facility in Roseville, MN. The site will hold a 40,000-square-foot headquarters, research labs and test kitchen. The property already houses multiple 11,000-square-foot greenhouses and outdoor demonstration plots.

Calyxt, a Minnesota-based subsidiary of French biopharmaceutical company Cellectis, successfully spun out from its parent and raised $64.4 million in an IPO on the Nasdaq stock exchange in July. Shares priced at the bottom of the $8-$10 a share range  at IPO but have been performing well since; as of publication the stock price was $23.40. Read more here.

Impossible Foods Opens California Facility

Impossible Foods, the maker of plant-based burgers that “bleed,” opened a manufacturing plant in East Oakland, CA this week. The company estimates that the new Oakland plant will be able to produce one million pounds of burgers per month at capacity, which it claims is enough to supply 1,000 restaurants. The startup has now raised $273.5 million in debt and equity in total, making it the best-funded alternative protein startup to date. Read more here.

Flying SpArk Joins IKEA Bootcamp

Israeli fruit fly farm and insect protein startup Flying SpArk will join furniture giant IKEA’s  first bootcamp and startup accelerator. The idea behind IKEA’s collaborative bootcamp effort is what the company calls, “Co-creating a better, everyday life.” Flying Spark and the nine other companies in the first cohort will join the IKEA product development center in Älmhult, Sweden, as of September 18, 2017. Read more here.

Valley Ventures Announces Cohort

Valley Ventures, a four-month accelerator program for water, energy, and ag technology startups, has announced its first cohort. The program is funded by a 2017 i6 Challenge Grant awarded to the International Center for Water Technology at Fresno State University, the California Energy Commission’s Regional Energy Innovation Grant and a network of private and public sector partners. Valley Ventures is housed at the WET Center at California State University, Fresno. In the first cohort is:

  • Aqua Oso – A water rights management and trading platform that provides transparency and insights into water rights transactions to enable smart water markets and watersheds.
  • Avsonic 
  • BovControl – A data collection and analysis tool to improve performance on meat, milk and genetics production.
  • FluidPulse – Automating most valves (diaphragm, butterfly, gate) using fluidic signals transmitted through existing water pipelines (plastic, aluminum, concrete).
  • Deep Root Irrigation (DRI)  – A direct delivery alternative to Drip, spray, and flooding technologies.
  • Drought Diet Products – A climate-resilient tool that applies water efficiently to crops with little waste from evaporation or deep percolation. 
  • DSPii – Developing a wide range of sensors, systems, and algorithms designed to improve crop yields while reducing production costs.
  • ECO2MIX  –  Replacing the use of sulfuric acid to reduce water pH with a safe, efficient, economic and ecologic method in which we inject CO2 instead.
  • GroGuru  – A precision soil monitoring system that enables growers to efficiently utilize limited water resources to help manage costs by providing them with real time and historical soil moisture, salinity, and temperature data.
  • Nanomass 
  • REDtrac – Agricultural Well and Water Monitoring, Customized Asset Management, GPS Tracking and Remote Tank Levels

Kuli Kuli Plants 1 million trees, Launches New Product

Kuli Kuli, the manufacturer, and distributor of Moringa-based products, has added “Organic Moringa Greens and Protein” powder to its line of moringa products.  The launch of this product also marks the planting of 1 million trees through Kuli Kuli’s supply chain.

Kuli Kuli raised $4.25m in Series A funding from eighteen94 Capital, in the first investment for the venture investment arm of Kellogg Company. It is also one of the first investments by a Fortune 500 company into a Benefit Corporation, a company that places social and environmental impact on an equal level with profit. The Series A followed a $500k seed round last year and a couple of crowdfunding campaigns, including a $500k raise on AgFunder.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • Indoor farming automation firm Autogrow is hosting a hackathon focused on growing food on Mars, reports Horti-Daily.
  • Fast Company does the math on what it takes to start a new farm in the US and the answer is several million dollars no matter which crop or US state you choose.
  • A fungus that promotes the growth of calcium carbonate could be used to repair cracked roads and bridges, says the MIT Technology Review.
  • Slate says frozen orange juice futures are up thanks to Hurricane Irma.
  • Robotic Kelp farms could be a valuable source of biofuel in addition to just looking cool, according to Fast Company.
  • The maker of the $700 juicer Juicero has shut down after Bloomberg reported that its trademark pouches could be squeezed by hand and did not require the high tech machine at all. Appropriately, Bloomberg offers post mortem analysis.

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