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Ag Industry Brief: Amazon Buys Whole Foods, Monsanto & Atomwise Partner to Use AI for Discovery, MidWest Accelerators Announce Investments, more

June 16, 2017

Amazon is Buying Whole Foods for $13.4bn

Amazon has agreed to buy the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.4 billion, as the online retailer looks to conquer new territory in the supermarket aisle and bolster its own food delivery service Amazon Fresh. VentureBeat asked, what does this mean for Instacart, which Whole Foods invested in last year and has a partnership with?

Ag Startup Engine Announces Initial Investments

Ag Startup Engine, located at the Iowa State University Research Park, has made an initial seed investment in Nebullam, an aeroponic and machine learning technology company for crop producers. Nebullam, which is currently in the ISU Startup Factory’s 52-week program, combines aeroponic and machine learning software technology for crop and micro-green producers. ASE has also made a follow-on investment in Performance Livestock Analytics, a cloud-based application for livestock producers. PLA joined the ASE in October 2016 while raising its initial seed round.

Monsanto & Atomwise Partner to Use AI for Discovery

Monsanto and Atomwise have formed a research collaboration to increase the speed and probability of discovering and developing new crop protection products using artificial intelligence. Atomwise develops artificial intelligence systems for molecular discovery. Through this research collaboration, Atomwise’s AtomNet technology will employ deep learning algorithms and supercomputers to analyze millions of molecules for potential crop protection products.

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator Hires Executive Director, Announces Class of 2017

The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has added Megan Vollstedt as its new executive director. Megan brings with her more than six years of experience in the startup community, having most recently served as senior corporate communications editor for Workiva, says the program. It also listed its Class of 2017 members, which will begin the program on July 10 in Des Moines:

  • WISRAN, Sunnyvale, CA, measures the time variations of farming activities to identify and manage revenue leaks.
  • Pyursolutions, Los Angeles, CA, develops natural and non-toxic bio-degradable pest solutions.
  • Rabbit Tractors, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Hintech, St. Joseph, MO
  • Phenomics Labs, Burnsville, MN

Hampton Creek Rebrands by Making a Name Switch

Hampton Creek is back in the news this week, debuting a new name and branding style for its vegan products. The company now goes by the name “Just” and has relocated any mention of Hampton Creek to the back of some packages. Its website is now, also. Read more here.

BlueCart Acquires Hospitality Tech Company Sous

Cloud-based e-commerce platform BlueCart, which offers customer management solutions for restaurants and suppliers, has acquired restaurant administration platform Sous. Read more about the deal here.

World Economic Forum Names Indigo as Technology Pioneer

Indigo, the microbial seed coating startup, was chosen among hundreds of candidates as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Technology Pioneers.” The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers are early-stage companies involved in the design, development, and deployment of new technologies and innovations that are poised to have a significant impact on business and society. The full list of the 30 recognized Technology Pioneers can be viewed here.

UC Davis is Weighing Pig Personality to Tackle Housing Issues

Researchers at UC Davis are examining pig behavior and distinctive personality traits to assist the pork industry with developing housing systems that better suit new legislative requirements and consumer demand for increased animal welfare. The study’s findings will be used to create a housing structure that allows pigs to roam about while also protecting them from aggressive herd mates. Currently, sows are separated from one another and confined to their own stall for up to 45 days after artificial insemination to protect the pregnancy, and again during birthingand weaning. Read more here.

Geosys Launches Partnership Program to Address Agricultural Challenges

Geosys, a provider of agronomic decision support tools, has unveiled a new challenge called Geosys Labs. Through the program, it will make its global database of satellite imagery and weather data available to initiatives dedicated to addressing the growing challenges facing the agriculture industry. Geosys is requesting applications via its website from companies, NGOs, and universities interested in establishing a partnership for a proof of concept project. While there is no specific limitation on the number of projects, qualifying partners must address one of the following objectives: 

  • Improve the measurement of sustainable practices in agriculture
  • Provide affordable risk management solutions for smallholder farms
  • Increase transparency within the agriculture supply chain
  • Revolutionize the future of agriculture and farming technologies

Agrilyst Unveils Trusted Advisor Network

Agrilyst is putting together a Trusted Advisor Network to help connect experts with growers who need assistance. “Every day, our customers ask me for recommended engineers, pest management experts, food safety consultants, designers, greenhouse systems experts, and all kinds of other experts. And now, we’re making it incredibly easy for growers to find great service providers,” Allison Kopf, founder and CEO, wrote in a recent email. If you’d like to be listed on its network, contact Allison at [email protected]. All applicants will have to provide customer references and spots are limited, so reach out to claim your spot early.  

Organic Industry Plans to Crack Down on Fraud through Task Force

The Organic Trade Association is working on creating a best practices guide to help verify compliance of organic products in the international market. Last month, The Washington Post published an article describing how three shipments of allegedly organic corn and soybeans were imported to the US from Turkey despite their lack of compliance.

New Food Safety Project between Europe and China to Tackle Food Fraud

The Institute for Global Food Security has launched a new food safety project in the EU and China to improve food legislation and inspection oversight will increasing access to information in both regions. Backed by a €10 million ($11.17m) award from the European Horizon 2020 Program and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology program, it will include state-of-the-art technologies like a virtual laboratory. Read more here.

China and US Finalize Deal for US Beef Imports

The first shipment of US beef imports is already on its way to China now that the countries have finalized a deal, which includes a number of requirements. The animals must be traceable to a US farm using a unique identification system, the cattle must be 30 months of age or younger, and the slaughtering process must include careful controls. Read more here.

Apply now for the Accenture Innovation Awards 2017 Challenge

The Accenture Innovation Awards Program of 2017 is officially open for registration. The program is open to entrepreneurs as well as corporate startups and concepts to register between now and July 31st, 2017 This year, the Innovation Awards are rewarded across eleven categories: Health & Wellbeing, Future Food Solutions, Perfect Cities, Delightful Consumer Experience, Safe & Secure Society, Seamless Travel & Transport, Intelligent Enterprise, Clean & Affordable Energy, Skills to Succeed, Financial Services Reinvented and Circular Economy.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • After taking continued heat for the alleged waste that its K-cup cartridges create, Keurig has brewed up a plan to make them completely recyclable by 2020, reports FoodDIVE.
  • Pepsi thinks insect protein is big business for the snack foods of the future, reports Bakery and Snacks.
  • The Trump administration has delayed implementation of the new and redesigned Nutrition Facts Panel label, reports FoodDIVE.

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