Ag Industry Brief: Damian Marley Launches Cannabis Farm in Cali Prison, Terravion Partners with Pasture Map, WHO Recommends Antibiotic-Free Meat, more

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Agritech startup news…

Aussie Agritech Startup Takes Top IBM Prize

Melbourne-based SenseAg, an IoT-focused big data startup, won first prize at the global Apache Spark Makers Build by IBM competition, which invited companies from around the world to build an ApacheSpark app to solve a real business issue or problem involving marketing, risk management, or operations. SenseAg was selected for its ag intelligence platform that provides farmers of any scale with real-time decision support using a distributed network of sensors and a cloud-based system.

AccelFoods Unveils Latest Cohort of Food-Focused Startups

AccelFoods, the accelerator fund focused on new food brands, has unveiled the next six startups to participate in its program. This brings its current portfolio to 26 total startups. With over $25 million under management, the firm offers pre-seed capital investments of $50k, and up to $2 million for seed-stage startups. The list includes a Seattle-based chocolate covered almond maker, an Ohio-based granola goods provider, a Southeast Asian fruit-based juice company, a New York popcorn brand, a kid-focused New York frozen children’s snack company, and a third NYC startup that’s modernized an ancient Roman snack sourced from lupine beans.

TerrAvion & PastureMap Partner to Provide Aerial Imagery to Pastoral Land Managers

TerrAvion, the airplane-based aerial imagery company, has formed a partnership with PastureMap, a grazing management software platform for livestock farmers, to deliver up-to- high-resolution imagery. At a recent visit in Sun City, Kansas, Brian Alexander of the Alexander Ranch spoke of how PastureMap made ranching math easy by automatically calculating important statistics like Animals Days/Acre and Rest Days, calculations that would have otherwise required pencil and paper. Combining TerrAvion’s imagery will help ranchers better measure the effects of their management decisions, whether it is to track the spread of invasive weeds, monitor irrigation efficiency, differentiate between bare and covered ground, and measure pre- and post- grazing activity – right from their desk or in the field.

In addition to forage and livestock tracking applications, public lands managers have used PastureMap and TerrAvion to measure how ecosystems change over time. Imagery and records can be shared with the NRCS and the partnership’s network of industry experts. By building a community and encouraging a sharing of ideas, new innovations can be communicated across the industry, according to a press release.

Other industry news…

WHO Chief Tells Consumers to Purchase Antibiotic-Free Meat

The World Health Organization drew even more attention to the issues surrounding the widespread use of antibiotics in animal agriculture by asking consumers to choose “antibiotic-free” meat, stating that such a decision could help temper the “slow-motion tsunami” that antibiotic-resistant superbugs pose to public health. It is anticipated that the meat industry will speak out against the WHO chief’s aggressive position, contending that the use of antibiotics in meat production as safe. Within the last year, the White House, USDA, FDA, and numerous other public agencies have taken up research and investigation into the growing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

USDA Seeks Public Comment on New Guidelines for Animal Raising Claims

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for ensuring food safety in meat production, is seeking comments from the public to help it update its guidance regarding its standards for reviewing animal raising claims on meat and poultry labels. The move may be in response to the Agricultural Marketing Service’s recent decision to withdraw its jurisdiction over regulating grass-fed label claims, leaving FSIS as the sole enforcer of these claims. FSIS produced an updated compliance guideline for animal raising claims and asked the public to let it know what it thinks of the new guidelines.

Damian Marley Converting California Prison into Cannabis Farm

Ocean Grown Contracts has teamed up with Damien Marley, youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley, to convert a defunct 77k square foot prison into a cannabis grow operation. The California-based facility will cultivate medical marijuana that will be sent to dispensaries statewide. Marley’s motivation for the marijuana venture is to show skeptics that a facility that once housed drug offenders can cultivate a medicinal herb that provides medical benefits to countless patients, reports Billboard. In purchasing the facility for $4.1 million, the partnership already gave an economic boost to the surrounding Coalinga area by relieving it of the $3.3 million debt it owed on the property. Marley also reports that the operation will soon create as many as 100 jobs.

Cargill Announces Non-GMO Project Verified Ingredients

Major agriculture products maker Cargill has for the first time taken the step to gain Non-GMO Project Verification for three of its food ingredients. Cargill’s erythritol, cane sugar, and high oleic sunflower oil are now Non-GMO Project Verified and commercially available. Cargill took this action to help food and beverage manufacturers, and foodservice operators meet the growing demand for non-GMO products and satisfy consumers’ preferences. Annual sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products have increased from $348.8 million in 2010 to more than $19 billion as of March 2016. According to Packaged Facts, demand for non-GMO products is expected to grow 12 percent annually through 2018. With nearly 2,800 Non-GMO Project Verified brands sourcing ingredients to comply with the standard, food and beverage industry demand is outpacing supply. Collaboration with Cargill, one of the largest food companies in the world, is an opportunity to increase the availability of non-GMO foods to consumers, according to Megan Westgate, executive director and founder of the Non-GMO Project, in a recent press release.

USDA Announces More than $7bn in Commodity Subsidies

On Tuesday, the USDA  announced that it plans to deploy over $7 billion in commodity subsidies to farmers during this fall to help them cope with the third straight year of farm income decline. Total incomes have fallen by over half during this timeframe. The primary recipients of these payments will be soybean, corn, rice, wheat, and peanut growers who took advantage of two new risk coping programs created as part of the 2014 farm bill—Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage.

Olam Receives Africa’s First Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Certification

Olam International’s African palm plantation has become the first on the continent to receive the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (“RSPO”) New Planting Procedure verification. RSO was established in 2004 to promote the sustainable production of palm oil globally. The Awala plantation in Gabon was Olam’s first venture into upstream palm plantations in a joint-venture with the Republic of Gabon. Development began in 2011 as one of two major projects for Olam Palm Gabon (OPG) in the country. The plantation of 6.7k hectares (ha) lies within a 20k ha lease, the remainder of which is actively managed by Olam for conservation of biodiversity and forest carbon, and protection of water catchments, in fulfilment of RSPO requirements.

Pinnacle Agriculture Launches Mission Seed Solutions

Pinnacle Agriculture has launched a new proprietary seed company, Mission Seed Solutions. The firm will be based in Loveland, Colorado and will focus on unique seed opportunities for US corn and soybean farmers. Pinnacle Agriculture is a US ag retailer and has a major focus and investment in seed. Nearly one-third of Pinnacle Agriculture’s business consists of seed sales. Pinnacle Agriculture also owns four seed manufacturing facilities where they annually produce rice, wheat and soybeans. Mission Seed Solutions will be led by Andrew Duff, vice president of Seed Strategy for Pinnacle Agriculture. The launch of Mission Seed Solutions, complements an existing seed strategy that builds upon Pinnacle Agriculture’s investment in seed and internal mantra “Lead with Seed.”

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • The FDA has added avocados and almonds to its definition of “healthy,” on FoodDIVE.
  • On October 12, Canopy San Diego will host a launch for its new cannabis-focused accelerator program. It plans to celebrate a new class of entrepreneurs as part of the official launch while also hosting its CannaKids Fundraiser. For more information on the event, click here.
  • Thought for Food kicks off its 2016 Millennial Food Innovators series with a Q&A featuring FarmAField, a new online marketplace for cattle investment, here.
  • The first international FoodBytes! event is slated for Sydney on November 3, 2016. Get your application in by 11:59 PM AEST on October 10.

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