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Ag Industry Brief: Insect M&A, Kraft Heinz Launches Incubator, Startup Makes Egg Protein from Fungi, more

March 9, 2018

Alltech president and founder Dr. Pearse Lyons dies at 73

Dr. Pearse Lyons founded Alltech in the 1970s after immigrating to America in the 1970s. The global company provides products related to animal feed, food safety, crop science, and analytics. In addition to his work at Alltech, Dr. Lyons founded a brewery and distilling company in Lexington, KY and just last year opened a distillery in Ireland.  Lyons was also the namesake of The Pearse Lyons Accelerator, which launched its first cohort of agtech startups last year.  Dr. Lyons had been battling an illness and passed away on Thursday morning. Read more.

Aspire Food Group Acquires Exo for an Undisclosed Amount

Aspire Food Group, manufacturer of several food products made from crickets, purchased Exo, producer of a cricket-based protein bar. The founders of both companies were featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2016 – conversations about the deal date back to the Under 30 Summit in Boston. Aspire Food Group will use Exo as its consumer brand, rebranding its existing product line, and Exo will shift its supply chain to the company, only using Aspire’s cricket protein. Exo cofounders Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis will help with the transition and then leave the company. Read more.

Kraft Heinz Co. Launches Product Development Platform

The latest legacy food brand to invest in entrepreneurship, Kraft Heinz Co. launched Springboard, a platform to develop new food and beverage products. The platform will develop brands in four categories: natural and organic; specialty and craft; health and performance; and experiential. In addition, Springboard is launching a 16-week incubator program that targets food and beverage startups in the pre-valuation stage. Acceptance into the incubator includes $50,000 in initial funding, and the opportunity to earn an additional $50,000. Read more.

FunGeneX Produces Egg Protein Without Chickens

The Netherlands-based biotech startup FunGeneX, a joint activity by Bioscienz and Dr. Nigel Dunn-Coleman, has developed a formula for producing chicken egg protein using fungi. Using a genetically engineered fungus, the company devised a method to extract the primary component of chicken egg protein, ovalbumin, from sugar. FunGeneX expects to commercially produce the protein from sugar beets, sugar cane, and grain-based sugars in the next 4-6 years. Read more.

Benson Hill Biosystems and Embrapa Announce Partnership

Brazil’s state-owned agricultural research corporation, Embrapa, is partnering with Benson Hill Biosystems. Embrapa plans to use Benson Hill’s CRISPR 2.0 and 3.0 genome editing nucleases tools to modernize its crop research and development. Embrapa operates the largest seed bank in Brazil, which is also one of the largest in the world. Read more.

Applications Open for Kirchner Food Fellowship

Launched in 2014, the Kirchner Food Fellowship supports socially responsible for-profit companies addressing global food security. Applicants for the 2018-2019 program must be enrolled in university in the US, Canada, or Mexico. Previous winners include Lucky Iron Fish, an alternative to daily iron pills, and Tomato Jos, a vertically integrated tomato-paste processing company serving the Nigerian market. Read more.

AgriVest Selects Companies to Present at Best Israeli Agtech Competition

Organizers of the  2018 AgriVest conference have selected 11 companies to compete in its annual competition, scheduled for May 8 in Tel Aviv. AgriVest brings representatives from industry, government, and business together around agrifood tech tools that address global food security. The Best Israeli Agtech Competition is a central feature of the day-long conference. Read more. The following 11 companies have been selected:

AgreMatch Developing an algorithm that analyzes different types of data and uses machine learning to find links between known compounds and unmet agricultural needs.

AquiNovo Developing non-GMO, non-hormonal growth enhancers for farmed fish.

FlyingSpark – Developing a technology to produce animal protein from fruit fly larvae and incorporate it into food products for human consumption.

FruitSpec – Developing a system using applied computer vision and an AI to estimate and project fruit yields based on multispectral machine vision technology.

HiGrade Developing cannabis analytics that utilizes machine learning technologies to identify the potency, quality, strain, and other traits.

MetoMotion Developing a multipurpose robotic system for automating labor-intensive tasks in greenhouses.

PlantArcBio Developing a Direct In Plant platform tool that helps breeders find genes linked to drought tolerance, yield improvement, insect control, and herbicide tolerance.

Skyx  Developing the “brain” for a modular swarm of autonomous spraying robots.

Unavoo – Developing a sweetening platform to fully eliminate sugars and artificial sweeteners from food and beverages. – Developing a platform that turns almost any consumer packaged good into a smart parcel that generates data to reduce hand- or NFC-based technology checking

WeedOut – Developing a biological herbicide to eradicate resistant weeds.

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