Ag Industry Brief: Brazilian Beef in Turmoil, Calyxt Hires ex-Cargill Exec, Walmart Launches Incubator, more

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Countries Halt Brazilian Beef Exports Amid Investigation into Bribery, Tainted Meat

China and the EU suspended imports of Brazilian beef and pulled products from shelves after Brazilian officials announced that they were in the middle of investigating claims that meat inspectors in Brazilian packing plants were accepting bribes to approve shipments of spoiled or contaminated meat products. The investigators also alleged that in some cases the plants were adding chemicals to mask the smell of rotten meat and engaging in other deceptive tactics. China imports nearly one-third of Brazil’s meat exports, making it a billion-dollar scandal for the South American country. Read more here. In the meantime, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service has boosted its oversight of Brazilian imports.

Calyxt Hires Ex-Cargill Exec Manoj Sahoo as Chief Commercial Officer

Calyxt, a Minnesota-based gene-editing company, has added former Cargill executive Manoj Sahoo as the company’s chief commercial officer. Sahoo will work closely as part of Calyxt’s executive team to build a commercial partnership network, execute a go-to-market plan for the Company’s products and ensure Calyxt’s integrated commercial success moving forward.

Walmart has a New Incubator Lab to House Startups in Robotics, VR, and AI

The largest retailer in the world is launching a startup incubator with a new in-house lab that will focus on startups in robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Named Store No. 8, it will be based in Silicon Valley and Walmart has hired former Jet.com founder Marc Lowe to make innovation a priority after Walmart bought the online retailer last year for $3 billion. Read more here.

Saudi Arabia to Host Region’s First Fly Farm

Through a licensing deal between Saudi technology hub Sajt and waste-to-nutrient startup AgriProtein, Saudi Arabia will soon be home to the region’s first fly farm. Sajt will use the AgriProtein factory blueprint to construct the first of three fly farms in the country. According to some, this agreement could mark the beginning of a new insect-based industry in the Middle East.

KDC Agribusiness wins Excellence Award in Environmental Technology Development

KDC Agribusiness, a New Jersey-based business that has developed over $3.5 billion of US-based infrastructure, was selected as winner of the award for Excellence in the Field of Environmental Technology Development at CleanEquity Monaco 2017, a forum for emerging sustainable technology and resource efficiency companies, hosted by Innovator Capital and the Monaco Economic Board. Read more here.

Impossible Foods Opens Factory in Oakland

The plant-based meat startup has opened a factory in Oakland, California, to roll out its burger into new Bay Area restaurants, including Oakland’s KronnerBurger, Public House in San Francisco and Vina Enoteca in Palo Alto, according to San Francisco Business Times.

Finnish Food Spectrometer Tech Wins EC Competition

Spectral Engines, a Finland-based food tech firm, won first prize in an EU competition for its sensor that analyzes many aspects of food, including ingredients, nutrients, and potential allergens. The scanner utilizes what it describes as the smallest near-infrared spectral sensing module to assess each food. Combined with its algorithms and cloud-based database, it provides deeper insight into food products. Read more about the Horizon Prize here.

Arkansas Legislature Approves Ag Gag Bill, Which Now Awaits Governor’s Signature

Ag Gag laws are a controversial topic in the farming community. In general, these laws prohibit undercover filming or photographing of farm activity without prior consent from the owner. The laws are designed to stop whistleblowers and undercover animal rights activists or environmental activists from infiltrating agriculture operations. Arkansas’ bill, HR 1665, would allow an employer to bring a lawsuit against someone that records or takes images of activity there in any way that damages the company. The bill also included obtaining data that could harm the company. Read more here.

New Workspaces at Farm491 Agritech Hub set to Facilitate Technological Progression in UK Farming

Agtech innovation and incubation hub Farm491 will open five new practical workspaces at its Harnhill site, Gloucestershire, this April. Following a soft launch, the official opening will then take place on June 30, 2017, with a celebrity appearance from rare breeds farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson. Farm491 is an incubation hub at the Royal Agricultural University that facilitates the growth of agtech startups.

SeaWeb Announces Seafood Champion Award Finalists

SeaWeb has unveiled the 16 finalists for its 2017 Seafood Champion Awards. The finalists were selected based on their ability to demonstrate brilliance and tenacity in working across borders, language barriers and industries to change humanity’s relationship with the sea. The winners ranged from fish cops in East Africa to the creator of easily replicated 3-D ocean farms, and from a chef who cycled across Canada promoting sustainable seafood to a company whose solar-powered data collector puts small-scale fishing boats on the map. Read more here.

Unilever Plots $7.4bn Sale of Margarine Portfolio

Unilever, one of the world’s largest household product and food companies, is planning to sell its margarine business for $7.4 billion. The announcement comes just one month after Unilever turned down a $143 billion takeover bid from Kraft Heinz. Read more here.

Western Integrated Pest Management Centers Awards a Quarter-Million in Grants

To help solve critical pest issues in U.S. agriculture and communities, the Western Integrated Pest Management Center has awarded $250,000 in grants to researchers and extension specialists around the West. The grants will support planning, developing and promoting safe and sustainable pest management – a science known as integrated pest management – which is used in agriculture, forests and other natural areas, communities, and schools.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • Starbucks is now offering gluten-free and vegan food options, reports CNBC.
  • Amid the debate over President Trump’s immigrant ban and a platform based on bringing jobs back to America, Trump Winery in Virginia is seeking permission to import more foreign workers, reports The New York Times.
  • New York plans to bring all residents broadband by 2018 in an effort to connect remote and rural areas, reports The New York Times.
  • Meal kit delivery service Blue Apron bought Bill Niman’s BN Ranch, reports SF Gate.
  • Food startup Eatsa is being sued for not making its tech kiosks accessible to the blind, reports US News.
  • Lawmakers in Illinois have proposed a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana, including possession, purchase, and growing, reports Chicago Reader.
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