Ag Industry Brief: Food Giants Team-Up on Blockchain, Farms Prep for Hurricane Harvey, Cheaper Whole Foods, more

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Food Giants Team Up to Develop Global Blockchain for Supply Chain

Walmart, Nestle, Driscoll’s, Tyson Foods Unilever, IBM, Dole and several other major food companies have teamed up to explore using blockchain technology (also known as a distributed ledger system) to manage the global food supply chain. “Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system,” Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, said in a statement. Walmart and IBM have already run two successful blockchain trials tracking Chinese pork and Mexican mangoes. Participants hope that a blockchain system could add a new level of global traceability to the food supply chain, making it easier to track the origins of food-borne illnesses. Read more here.

Amazon Whole Foods Deal Approved Leading to Immediate Changes

This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods Market leading to a list of immediate changes the internet retail giant will be making to the organic and natural grocer. Beginning Monday, when Amazon has said the deal will close, prices will drop on some items including organic avocados, organic eggs, organic salmon and tilapia, ground beef, bananas, organic baby kale and baby lettuce, almond butter, organic Gala and Fuji apples, organic rotisserie chicken, and organic butter. Additional discounts will also be available to Amazon Prime members. Some of Whole Foods private label 365 items will be available on Amazon.com, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, and Prime Now and Amazon pickup lockers will start to show up at Whole Foods stores. Read more here.

Hurricane Harvey

South Texas farmers are reportedly racing to harvest crops before the imminent arrival of Hurricane Harvey on Texas’s gulf coast. The USDA has issued food safety guidelines for those living in affected areas and two counties are already under mandatory evacuation. Harvey has today been upgraded to a Category 2 Hurricane with winds up to 110 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Experts expect up to 35 inches of rain, which they say may leave the area uninhabitable for week or months. Read more here.

Proagrica Partners with BASF

Proagrica, a digital media and data platform, and BASF, the multinational chemical crop protection products company, have signed a development and operation agreement for a farm management platform integrated with both firms’ data and technology. The first product to result from the partnership will offer a way for farmers to monitor and manage their crops while seeing the impact of different agricultural practices on sustainability factors, such as business profitability, soil health, and biodiversity. A pilot is underway in preparation for the commercial launch in Canada and products for other countries will follow. Read more here.

McDonald’s Cutting Antibiotics

This week McDonald’s announced that it would begin to reduce the use of human antibiotics in its chicken next year. The fast food giant is using World Health Organization’s list of “highest priority critically important antimicrobials” (HPCIA) to human medicine to set new standards for its poultry suppliers. McDonald’s chickens in Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Europe will be free of HPCIA’s by January 2018, with one last-resort antibiotic excepted in Europe. Australian and Russian suppliers will stop using HPCIAs by the end of 2019. Suppliers in all other markets will comply by January 2027. Read more here.

USDA Ethics App

The USDA has launched a new app to answer ethical questions from its employees. The USDA Ethics App contains shortened, easy-to-read versions of USDA ethics guidelines, Hatch Act limitations on political activity. Secretary Perdue called the mobile app a “first of its kind in the federal government.” Read more here.

Baidu Sells Food Delivery Subsidiary Waimai

Chinese search engine Baidu sold its food delivery subsidiary Xiaodu — which operates under the brand Waimai — to rival Rajax, which operates the country’s biggest food delivery business ele.me. Reportedly the sale is worth $800 million. Earlier this year ele.me raised $1 billion in Series H funding from Alibaba. ele.me also counts Tencent and Sequioa among its investors. Read more here.

More News That’s Fit To Chew

  • The Philadelphia Soda Tax has caused soda sales to decrease by 55% inside the city limits, and increase by 38% just outside, reports The State.
  • Amazon and Walmart both have applied for patents or giant unmanned blimps, says the New Food Economy.
  • Blue Apron is facing multiple class action lawsuits claiming that the company misrepresented its plans regarding advertising next year and its notorious trouble with customer retention, according to Tech Crunch.
  • A new Nielsen report lays out what consumers mean when they say they want “clean” ingredients in their food and what they’re will to pay for them.
  • By introducing a gene from beets, a new GM tomato has improved antioxidant content and hot pink, exciting Food and Wine.
  • Blue Apron competitor Hello Fresh is still considering IPO, reports Reuters.
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