Ag Industry Brief: Bayer to Acquire Monsanto, Coalition for Responsible Gene-Editing Launches, Farmigo Sells Delivery Business, more

September 16, 2016

Bayer to Acquire Monsanto for $66bn

If you haven’t heard by now, you may be living under a rock. Monsanto has finally agreed to an acquisition deal with Bayer Ag for $66 billion. The German health and agricultural products company has been in hot pursuit of the St. Louis-based seed and pesticide developer for several months. After a few rejected offers, the freshly inked deal includes a $2 billion breakup payment that Bayer must doll out to Monsanto if the Department of Justice finds the deal undoable due to antitrust concerns. Meanwhile, Dow is seeking regulatory approval of its agreement to purchase DuPont, which happened only a short while after ChemChina received the greenlight from US antitrust regulators to acquire Swiss ag company Syngenta. 

There are potentially some rough waters ahead for the betrothed companies. Back in August, Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, set a hearing to discuss the recent onslaught of consolidations in the chemical and seed sector, namely prompted by the merger between Dow and DuPont. Now that the so-called “Big 6” could become the “Big 3,” Senator Grassley and the rest of the committee will likely have a battery of questions for Monsanto and Bayer reps who have been called to attend the hearing, which will take place on September 20, 2016.  Although the wave of mergers could mean fewer jobs and higher input prices for farmers, the companies have sweetened the deals by promising greater R&D efforts to develop new innovations for farmers.

Center for Food Integrity Launches a Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing

The Center for Food Integrity has launched the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture, a partnership of diverse stakeholders committed to building public trust in gene editing for agriculture and food production. The coalition will evaluate the steps that the industry needs to take to ensure that new gene editing techniques are used responsibly and that consumers are included in the discussion about its application. These efforts will be guided by a swathe of what the center calls “core values” addressing everything from food safety to environmental impact. CFI is recruiting a leadership team of diverse stakeholders to aid in the effort including academics, plant and animal genetic companies, agriculture and food system stakeholders and NGOs with a focus on public interest.

CA Passes Landmark Farmworker Overtime Pay Legislation

California Governor Jerry Brown made history this week when he signed the first ever piece of legislation entitling farmworkers to overtime pay. Now, agricultural laborers, who are responsible for harvesting the massive quantities of fresh produce and specialty crops grown on the West Coast each year, will earn overtime for any hours logged beyond 8 hours a day or 40 hours in a week. The agricultural community in the state lobbied against the bill claiming it would put the already declining industry in an even worse state. The legislation, which was penned and proffered by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, calls for a four-year phase-in of the new rules, with full legislation taking effect by 2022. The legislation will come as good news to ag robotics manufacturers who have been betting on this trend.

Farmigo Sells Bay Area Business After Sudden Shutdown in July

Two months after announcing ago that it was shutting down its food delivery business to concentrate on providing software to other companies dabbling in the farm-to-table delivery arena, Farmigo has sold its Bay Area business operations to another local competitor called Eating with the Seasons. The company is also looking for buyers to gobble up its two other markets, Seattle and New York. One year ago, the company completed a $16 million venture round, making the shut down even more surprising.

THRIVE Accelerator is Accepting Applications

Are you an innovator creating technologies for food and agriculture? THRIVE is looking for applications to fill out its next cohort, which begins in February 2017. Offering up to $5 million in seed stage investment and access to a mentorship and investment network, the company will take up to 10 companies through an 8-week accelerator program. This includes individual pitch training, business strategy development, and matchmaking to deploy each company’s technologies. To learn more about the accelerator and its ecosystem, watch this YouTube video.

EdenShield Receives US Patent Approval for Pest Control Solution

EdenShield recently received patent approval for its nontoxic pest control solution based on the extract of a desert plant. EdenShield’s GateKeeper is a sprinkler delivery system for the EdenShield NET product — installed at the entrance to greenhouses — but does not spray the plants inside. It operates in pulses, several times per hour, during daytime hours in the relevant seasons for pest control. The aromatic ingredients of EdenShield NET, when applied to the greenhouse entrance and screens, masks the odor of the protected crop and lowers insect attraction.

Mondelez International Invests $65m in R&D Facilities

Major food manufacturer Mondelez International, which is well known for its candy, gum, and chocolate products, is investing $65 million in creating a network of research, development, and quality hubs across the globe, including Mexico, the UK, Poland, India, China, Singapore, Brazil, and the US. The effort will serve the company’s continued growth and innovation needs. The company, which claimed roughly $30 million in net revenue during 2015, also announced a new effort to hire promising talent and to stake out a stronger foothold in developed and emerging markets.

USDA Releases Request for Information to Help Guide Development of Regulations for New GMO Labeling Law

The USDA has asked the food and beverage industry to chime in on how the agency should develop studies designed to assist it with putting the new GMO labeling legislation into effect. The USDA intends to perform a series of studies regarding how the labeling disclosure requirements should take shape. One study will examine potential technological challenges that consumers face around the country while the second will evaluate how willing consumers will be to refer to electronic or digital sources of information to learn about whether each product was produced with biotechnology.

The federal agency has also announced that it is continuing its review of the medical importance behind providing antimicrobials to livestock via feed or water. The investigation is part of the agency’s overall aim to avoid promoting increased antimicrobial resistance. In this phase, the FDA will limit the use of medically important microbials, which include those deemed necessary for treating human diseases and conditions.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

  • The US government is offering a total of $20 million in prizes to folks who can find and identify superbugs, on NBC News.
  • Here is a list of 2016’s most innovative female #food influencers, on Fortune.
  • This LA-based greenhouse grower created a digital tour to promote indoor ag.
  • Australia’s first agtech accelerator is now accepting applications for its pre-accelerator program, on AgFunderNews.

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