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Ag Industry Brief: Land O’Lakes Drone Challenge, Ag Innovation Showcase Expands to UC Davis, Almond Board Invests $5m in Innovation, Broad Wins CRISPR Fight, more

February 17, 2017

Land O’Lakes Announces New Drone Challenge

Land O’Lakes, the major US dairy cooperative, is calling on innovators from the tech industry to enter the Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge, a crowdsourcing competition designed to develop proposed solutions that enable scalable, autonomous drone usage in precision agriculture. A prize of $140,000 will be awarded to a grand prize winner, and two $5,000 prizes are available to two runners up. Winners will retain intellectual property rights to the solutions they develop to help farmers use drone technology more effectively. Read more and learn how to apply here.

Farm Groups Urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Oppose Major Agricultural Mergers

Over 300 agriculture groups, including farmers, beekeepers, farmworkers, food safety professionals, and conservation advocacy groups, have called upon the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into the proposed mergers of the world’s largest agrochemical and seed companies. The groups urged Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General, to temporarily halt the mergers of Dow Chemical with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer, and Syngenta with ChemChina on the basis that they will drive up food and farming costs, threaten global food security, curtail innovation, threaten the health of farmworkers, and limit farmer choice. Read more here.

Judge Sides with MIT’s Broad Institute over CRISPR California University Patent Challenge

In a high-profile lawsuit, a panel of US Patent and Trademark Office judges concluded that a number of CRISPR patents rightfully belong to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. The University of California filed a challenge claiming that although Broad institute was awarded its set of patents first, the University of California was the first to apply for a CRISPR patent. Read more about the ruling here.

Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator Becomes ACRE AgTech

The Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator, which serves entrepreneurs, farmers and emerging rural businesses, unveiled a new name this week: ACRE AgTech. The incubator will continue its work to connect, develop and cultivate agriculture technology innovations, either into new businesses or commercializing them in partnership with established entities.

Almond Board of California Commits $4.7m to Innovation

On both National Almond Day and National Innovation Day, the Almond Board of California announced that it will invest $4.7 million dollars in 82 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming and sustainability practices. Read more here.

The Ag Innovation Showcase is Expanding to UC Davis

Larta Institute and the UC Davis World Food Center have partnered to launch the Ag Innovation Showcase on May 8 and 9. The partnership leverages UC Davis’ position as the top ranked university in the US for agriculture research and top ranked globally for veterinary medicine alongside Larta Institute’s expertise in accelerating commercial innovation. Like the St Louis event, the Ag Innovation Showcase will feature early-stage companies and discussions involving investors and food and ag experts. The event will especially focus on technologies for high-value crops, livestock, and dairy. Larta Institute is also now accepting applications for its 2017 Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis, Missouri, September 11-13, 2017. The application period closes May 8. Read more and apply here.

Organic Folks Anxiously Await Fate of Stalled Animal Welfare Regulations

One of the pending regulations released in the final days of the Obama administration, and put on hold by the Trump White House, was a new set of regulations that would set minimum animal welfare requirements for certified organic production. The new rule adds provisions for livestock handling, avian living conditions, and transport for slaughter, and expands and clarifies existing requirements covering livestock care and production practices. It includes mandates for the care of cattle, hogs, and poultry. Read more about the rules’ limbo status here.

Standardization of Sell-By and Best-By Dates in the Works

The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association have launched a new initiative to standardize date labels on food packages. The voluntary initiative encourages retailers and manufacturers to only use one of two standard phrases on consumer facing food packing. “BEST if Used By” will be used to describe a product’s quality. “USE By” will be used only for the few products that carry a food safety risk that increases past the date. Read more here.

University of Missouri Announces Nematode Discovery that Could Bode Well for Soybean Farmers

Nematodes are sneaky parasites that are a major threat to global agriculture and agribusiness. These crafty pests cause billions in crop losses each year and are a serious threat to food crops such as soybeans. An international team of researchers, led by the University of Missouri, recently found that cyst nematodes invade and drain nutrients from soybean plants by secreting “mimicked” peptides they create that act like the soybean plant’s signaling systems. Read more here.

Radicle Appoints New Venture Partners

Radicle, an accelerator fund for early-stage agricultural and food technology startups, has appointed Jason Pyle, Paul Zorner, Sam Fiorello, and Tom Urban to its team of venture partners. The program was first announced Founded in 2016 by agtech venture capital firm Finistere Ventures, Cloud Break Advisors, Bayer Crop ScienceDuPont Pioneer and OurCrowd. The first cohort has yet to launch.

FDA Unveils the New Nutrition Facts Panel

The FDA recently unveiled the new Nutrition Facts panel, which a California-based food labeling company helped them develop. The new label features a number of updates and changes, including a requirement that companies list the amount of added sugars in a product. Read more here.

Hain Celestial Faces SEC Investigation

Organic products maker Hain Celestial is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The probe is looking into the company’s accounting practices following a failure to report quarterly earnings on time. Learn more here.

Dairy Groups Urge Trump to Tackle Supposed Pricing Scheme with Canadian PM

The US dairy sector urged President Trump to discuss what it describes as Canada’s protectionist milk pricing policy during his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week. The National Milk Producers Federation, the US Dairy Export Council, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture are calling the issue “one of the most sensitive and urgent topics complicating the relationship between the two countries.” Read more about their position here.

Sanderson Farms Shareholders Support Board’s Decision to Keep Using Antibiotics

The shareholders at Sanderson Farms recently voted down a proposal to phase out the use of antibiotics deemed medically important for humans. Read more here.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • This former Google exec is starting a meal prep company, reports The Food Institute.
  • Some senators are calling on President Trump to adopt a GAO report calling for streamlined food safety inspections, reports Auburn Pub.
  • Kenya has approved the commercial use of drones, reports Quartz Africa.
  • Irish startups hit a record year for venture capital raising $939.19 million dollars—up 70% from last year, reports Yahoo! Finance.

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