Ag Industry Brief: Plenty Makes Plans in China, Remote Sensing Startups Merge, Ex-Cisco CEO Invests in Agtech, more

Plenty, Inc. Announces Plans to Build 300 Vertical Farms in China

The SoftBank-backed indoor farming company Plenty, Inc. made public its plans to build 300 new vertical farms near major Chinese cities, where the growing middle class is ever more willing to pay more for safer food. The plans include provisions for ‘experience centers’ in Beijing and Shanghai in an effort to introduce reluctant eaters to raw vegetables. Read more.

SkySquirrel Technologies Inc. and VineView Imaging Merge for Undisclosed Amount

The Napa Valley-based VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging announced a merger with the Nova Scotia-based data analytics company SkySquirrel. The companies will now operate under the VineView name. SkySquirrel had just closed a $3 million investment round, but no details were provided about the valuation of the merger. Read more.

New Report Finds Low Levels of Trust in the Food System


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The Center for Food Integrity found in a recent study that a majority of Americans feel a ‘trust deficit’ permeates the relationships between food companies and consumers. Just 33% of respondents reported high levels of confidence in the safety of what they eat — down from 47% in 2017. “The food system is making great strides toward transparency and responsiveness, which is tremendous, but there is more work to be done,” said Roxi Beck, director of the CFI. Read more.

HeavyConnect Launches FSMA Compliance App

Salinas-based HeavyConnect, a farm management mobile platform, has launched a food safety mobile application in time for the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Rule, which takes effect later this month. The app was developed in collaboration with California’s grower community to automate cumbersome paper-based workflows that hinder an effective food safety processes. Read more. 

Ex-Cisco CEO John Chambers Transitions to Venture Capital

John Chambers, the former chairman and CEO of Cisco, announced the launch of a self-funded venture capital firm called JC2. He aims to support companies working on applications for the Internet of Things, digital communications, security, and agriculture. So far, Chambers has eight companies in his portfolio, among them the edible insect firm Aspire Food Group and Airware, a drone analytics company. Read more.

Motorleaf Announces AI-Powered Platform for Greenhouse Yield Prediction

The Canadian company Motorleaf announced the launch of a platform that helps commercial greenhouse farmers predict yields by using artificial intelligence and machine learning.The release follows several months of beta testing with the American company SunSelect. Read more.

Institute of Food Technologists Launches Food Disruption Challenge

Applications opened last week for a new competition geared towards investment-ready startups working at the intersection of technology, science, and food. Hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists, the competition will recognize six finalists — the winner takes home a $25,000 cash prize, alongside an IFTNEXT Future Food Disruptor of the Year award. Read more.

GrowBioplastics Wins $250,000 NSF Grant

The Knoxville, Tennessee-based company Grow Bioplastics recently won a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation for its work on using agricultural and forestry waste in the production of biobased and biodegradable polymers. The grant supports their research and development of lignin (a class of complex organic polymers) biodegradable plastics for agricultural applications like mulch films. Read more.

New West Genetics Brings First U.S.-bred Certified Hemp Seed to Cannabis Industry

This week, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) certified the first-ever U.S.-bred hemp seed. New West Genetics, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, submitted a variety, NWG-ELITE, developed through its genetic engineering processes — the first to pass the Colorado Department of Agricultures’ THC hemp trials and qualify with the AOSCA. Read more.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • Modern Farmer investigates what satellite surveillance can do for the seafood industry.
  • Meanwhile, Alaskan seafood marketers are branding fish parts as ‘specialty products,’ in order to put to use the 3 billion pounds of such waste a year. reports the Cordova Times.
  • In Switzerland, an official order brought a sudden halt to boiling lobsters and other crustaceans alive on the grounds that it amounts to animal cruelty, but the New York Times reports that scientists aren’t so sure.
  • According to Business Insider, Whole Foods can’t keep its shelves stocked amidst an effort to streamline ordering processes – customers and employees alike have had enough.
  • Apparently, salmonella might have been the downfall of the Aztecs according to new research from Nature – Food Safety News has the details.
  • NPR’s The Salt introduces the researchers taking a deep dive into the microbial life of soil.

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