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Ag Industry Brief: Deere’s Purchase of Monsanto’s Precision Planting Questioned, Caribous Biosciences Hires Vonnie Estes, more

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US Antitrust Officials Move to Block Deere’s Purchase of Monsanto’s Precision Planting

The US government has hit the brakes on Deere’s purchase of Monsanto-owned Precision Planting. According to antitrust regulators, the deal would unreasonably hamper free competition and lead to serious price hikes for farmers. If approved, it would result in a consolidation of the only two main players in the high-speed data-based precision planting arena, providing Deere with control over an estimated 90 percent of the market. Both companies have expressed their intention to fight the DOJ’s lawsuit seeking to void the acquisition deal. With other deals pending between Dow Chemical and DuPont, Syngenta and China National Chemical Corp, the ag industry could be headed for serious consolidation. And a deal between Bayer’s ag division and Monsanto is still on the cards.

CRISPR-Cas9 Startup Caribou Biosciences Hires Vonnie Estes

Caribou Biosciences, the startup using CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing technologies for agriculture, has hired Vonnie Estes as group leader for agricultural and industrial biotechnology. Estes, who recently wrote a guest commentary for AgFunderNews, brings decades of experience across the agriculture and industrial biotech industries. During her career, she has held key leadership positions in some of the most prominent companies in the agriculture and industrial biotechnology fields, including DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta, while also working at start-ups and venture funds to establish novel technologies, build new companies and drive innovation. Before joining Caribou, Estes served as a consultant for global industrial biotech and agriculture companies, advising on partnership development, investor relations, strategic planning and market entry.

“We are delighted to welcome Vonnie as a member of our team,” said Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D., president, CEO, and co-founder of Caribou in a press release. “With extensive experience at both large and small agriculture and industrial biotech companies, she is uniquely positioned to help Caribou capitalize on the potential opportunities for CRISPR-Cas gene editing to develop improved crops and bio-based products.”

Virtus Nutrition Acquires Dairy Data Management Platform Developer Farmeron

Virtus Nutrition, a company providing fatty acid nutrition for the dairy cattle, has acquired Farmeron, a cloud-based farm business management platform designed to help dairy and cattle producers manage their operations through data intelligence. Founded in late 2010, Farmeron claims that it is currently being used by some of the largest dairy farms in the US. Virtus Nutrition formulates and manufactures dairy feed ingredients promising significant improvements in production efficiency and reproductive performance. Virtus Nutrition is part of a larger group of agri-business companies owned by Matt Swanson, a well-known businessman and philanthropist based in Turlock, California.

AgLaunch Offers New Ag Accelerator Program & Other Agtech Startup Resources

AgLaunch, a joint initiative of Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, has unveiled its latest cohort of startups. The accelerator program selected four startups to receive a $50k investment and participate in three months of intense entrepreneurial programming and business development. AgIDG will provide agricultural expertise and resources, leveraging entrepreneurial programming provided by Start Co., a member of the Global Accelerator Network that has led accelerator programs for more than 80 startup companies. The companies include animal wearable device maker Cowlar, pathogen detection platform Secure Food Solutions, drone-delivered early crop stress detection startup Skycision, and biobased seed coating and fertilizer developer YieldStart.

Canopy Boulder Announces Latest Cohort of Cannabis Startups

Cannabis business accelerator Canopy Boulder has unveiled its next cohort comprised of nine companies. From 3D-printed smoking accessories to a ClassPass-like service for cannabis dispensary customers, the nine selected startups will move to Berkeley, CA, to begin a 16-week entrepreneurial program. This is the fourth cohort to go through the accelerator program. According to Canopy Boulder, its 29 alumni have raised a total of nearly $15 million from investors. For each cohort, the program selects up to 10 startups to participate. Each company receives $20,000 in seed capital and up to $50,000 in follow-on investment from Canopy’s investment fund. The accelerator plans on opening an office in San Diego this fall.

Purdue Opens First Field Phenotyping Facility in North America

The Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education recently held dedication ceremonies for the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center. The 25,000 square foot facility will support state-of-the-art research in automated field phenotyping, the process of measuring and analyzing observable plant characteristics. The center will be a core component of the plant sciences research and education initiative. Dubbed Purdue Moves, the initiative is designed to broaden the university’s global impact and to enhance educational opportunities for students. The $15 million center is supported by a combined $4 million investment from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council. AgReliant Genetics, Ag Alumni Seed and ALMACO are also key partners in the project.

Niman Ranch Joins the Certified Humane Program

Colorado-based pork, beef, and lamb producer Niman Ranch has joined the Certified Humane program, a certification system maintained by the Humane Farm Animal Care organization. This nonprofit certification program hopes to improve the lives of millions of farm animals in our food production system. The goal of the program is to boost consumer demand for welfare-focused handling practices. To obtain the certification, a producer’s animals must be raised without antibiotics, hormones, or animal by-products in their feed. Third-party inspectors consisting of veterinarians and Ph.D. experts in farmed animal welfare conduct routine inspections of farms and slaughter facilities that have obtained the certification. The announcement comes as federal policymakers continue to debate a set of proposed animal welfare standards that would be included in the National Organic Program.

Starbucks Launches Foodshare Program in San Diego

Together with Feeding America and Feeding American San Diego, Starbucks has launched the first Starbucks FoodShare program. The initiative will donate ready-to-eat meals to Feeding America’s member food banks from its stores in San Diego. Some 190 Starbucks locations will provide an estimated 750,000 pounds of food—comprising roughly 625,000 meals—in the San Diego region. Established in 2007, Feeding America San Diego is a hunger-relief organization in San Diego county, providing 21.2 million meals within the last year. FASD provides food and resources to a network of 200 distribution partners serving 60,000 children, families and seniors each week. Petition Calls on Walmart & Other Big Grocers to Sell Produce Seconds

A new petition on is calling on Walmart and other major grocers to offer “ugly” produce to consumers at lower prices. According to the petition, there is nothing wrong with the countless tons of produce that are sent to dumpsters instead of store shelves over blemishes and other aesthetic flaws. Considering that some 40 percent of produce bears a flaw that deems it unfit for retail display, the amount of food waste this generates is startling.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

  • Mondelez calls off bid to acquire Hershey, on
  • Grocery Manufacturers Association and Vermont withdraw GMO-based lawsuit, on The Daily Intake.
  • A new DuPont back agtech accelerator is hoping to turn Iowa into an innovation hotspot, on Medium.
  • Israeli farmers are looking to export medical cannabis by 2018, on Breaking Israel News.
  • Campbell’s Soup is disappointed in sales of its organic brand and sites poor execution as the reason behind the slump, on Fortune.

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