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Ag Industry Brief: More Exec Churn at Chipotle, EU Changes Protocol on GMOs, TechAccel Funds New Grants, more

March 16, 2018

Top Marketing Executive at Chipotle Steps Down

In the latest in a series of executive transitions at Chipotle Mexican Grill, the company’s chief marketing officer Mark Crumpacker announced he would step down. Chipotle has long struggled to maintain its image after an E. coli outbreak and other food safety concerns. Crumpacker reportedly struggled with a drug addiction and had a tenuous relationship with Chipotle’s new CEO, Brian Niccol, formerly of Taco Bell. Read more.

Civil Society Groups Can Now Challenge How EU Handles GMOs

Civil society groups can now challenge how European Union courts handle the sale of genetically modified organisms. The decision by a European Union court follows an attempt by an activist group, TestBioTech, to file a review of a decision related to GMO soybeans produced by Pioneer and Monsanto in the EU. TestBioTech had filed the request for review under a law that allows civil society groups to engage with European courts on environmental issues; the request was initially declined on the grounds that GMOs are a health, not environmental, concern. This week’s decision from the EU General Court cements that genetically modified products relate to both health and environmental issues, enabling activist groups to engage with the courts. Read more.

TechAccel Pledges $50,000 to UC Davis STAIR Grant Program

The Kansas City-based technology and venture development group TechAccel announced that it would extend its partnership with UC Davis Venture Catalyst to the tune of $50,000 in funding for the university’s STAIR grant program. Short for Science Translation and Innovative Research, the grant focuses on proof-of-concept research to bring technology developed in university settings to the commercial marketplace. The commitment from TechAccel follows an announcement last month of a research collaboration between the company and the university to improve wheat yields in a changing climate. Read more.

Smart Agrifood Summit Issues Call for Applications

Mark your calendars for the upcoming Startup Europe Smart Agrifood Summit, taking place in Malaga, Spain in June 2018. The exhibition organizers select 300 startups for an intensive 2-day conference that brings together investors, advisors, and entrepreneurs working in the agrifood tech space. Startups will compete for five awards. Read more.

IMPACT Accelerator Announces New Growth Program Class

Among the 14 international startups selected to participate in the IMPACT Growth program, three agrifood tech companies made the cut: Digitanimal, which uses blockchain to monitor and locate livestock, the precision agriculture company Pynco, and Skyx, the creator of software that allows the user to control multiple drones — what it calls a “swarm” — and direct them to complete a single mission. . The startups each receive €100,000 in funding. Two will receive an additional €150,000 equity free. The fourteen companies will also compete for additional funding from other sources, and participate in mentoring and technological support. Read more.

Autogrow and Plant & Food Research Partner on Perennial Fruit Research

Plant & Food Research, the New Zealand-based company behind new fruit cultivars like Jazz apples, and Autogrow, a company providing hardware, software and data for indoor farmers, announced a new collaboration. The research and development will focus on yield improvements and continuous production of perennial fruits. Read more.

Wild Earth Announces Cultured Protein for Pets

The Berkeley, California-based biotech startup Wild Earth is taking a shot at disrupting the pet food market with cultured protein the first company to do so. Its first product is made from a fungus called Kogi, which is used to ferment soybeans, produce rice vinegar, and make alcoholic beverages like sake. Investors in Wild Earth include VegInvest, Stray Dog Capital, Felicis Ventures, Blue Horizon, Babel Ventures, EverHope Capital, Macro Ventures, and Aera VC. Read more.

Evonik and Modern Meadow Announce a Partnership to Scale Cultured Leather

The European chemical company Evonik announced a partnership with Modern Meadow, a startup that brews leather using an engineered strain of yeast that produces collagen through fermentation. Modern Meadow is backed by Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures, and Breakout Ventures, a Peter Thiel fund, among others. It takes about two weeks to produce bioleathers, which can be custom produced down to the thickness, texture, and color. And, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired a leather shirt produced by the company. Read more.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

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