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Ag Industry Brief: Tyson Hires First Sustainability Officer, Food + Future Lab May Close, Unilever Acquires Sir Kensington’s, more

April 21, 2017

Tyson Foods Appoints its First Chief Sustainability Officer

Major poultry producer Tyson Foods has named Justin Whitmore to the newly-created role of Chief Sustainability Officer. The appointment follows the company’s introduction of a new initiative that puts sustainability at the core of the company’s future aspirations. Whitmore comes from McKinsey & Company and will help Tyson Foods with its growing portfolio of protein companies. This is an interesting move following Tyson’s acquisition of a 5% stake in Beyond Meat a few months ago. Read more here.

Target’s Food + Future Lab May Shut Down or Relocate

An initiative launched in January 2016 to help Target bring more transparency to shoppers, the Food + Future Lab, was potentially headed for the chopping block recently. After a dismal holiday season and sales on the decline, the store put a stop to its store-of-the-future concept being constructed in Silicon Valley and ended a startup project shrouded in secrecy called Goldfish. But it sounds like a secret buyer may be coming to the rescue – we hope so! Read more here.

Obvious Ventures Raises $178.4m for Second Fund

San Francisco-based venture capital firm Obvious Ventures has raised another round of capital for its second fund according to an SEC filing. The outfit invests in sustainable systems including agriculture and food, alongside other sectors. Obvious Ventures is invested in e-grocer Good Eggs, satellite imagery company Planet Labs, microbe engineering company Zymergen, and alternative protein manufacturers Beyond Meat and Miyoko’s Kitchen. Read more here.

Unilever is Acquiring Alternative Mayo Brand Sir Kensington’s

Major international household products maker Unilever is purchasing Sir Kensington’s, an artisanal maker of condiments, for roughly $140 million. The European portfolio giant appears to be expanding its reach into fast-growing alternative markets. Last year it purchased Seventh Generation, an environmentally-friendly, and natural cleaning products company. Read more here.

Expensive Juice Machine Startup Juicero May be Crying Over Spilled Juice

Two investors in the premium $400 at-home juicing machine Juicero recently learned that the startup’s juice packs can be squeezed by hand, rendering the so-called “Keurig for juice” machine unnecessary. According to a recent report from Bloomberg, squeezing the juice packs by hand yields the same amount of juice and in some cases, completes the process faster than the machine. Read more here.

Ivy Tech Community College to Establish Precision Ag Equipment Center

Wabash Valley’s Ivy Tech Community College received an Economic Development Grant to help it launch a Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology Center of Excellence at the Terre Haute campus. It will be aimed at expanding the campus’ vocation training curriculum to encompass planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and performing other farm functions with agtech. Read more here.

Policy Groups Launch Petition to Require USDA To Test Food for Glyphosate Residues

After the USDA announced that it will not test food for glyphosate residues, a pesticide that has come under recent scrutiny amid reports that it is carcinogenic, Food Policy Action launched a petition online asking the USDA to reconsider. The World Health Organization has listed glyphosate as a probable cause of cancer and California recently added the herbicide to its Prop 65 list of carcinogenic substances. Read more here.

National Organic Standards Board Continues Debate Over Including Hydroponics

On April 19, the National Organic Standards Board will meet to discuss a wide variety of matters, including whether the USDA certified organic program will include hydroponic production systems, which typically involve cultivating fruits and vegetables indoors with liquid fertilizer instead of soil. Read more here.

Dallas-Based H-E-B is Growing Salad Behind the Store

In May, Central Market, a Dallas-based specialty food division of H-E-B, will start offering salad products grown behind the store. The greens will be harvested from a vertical farm that’s been retrofitted inside a 53-foot shipping container. Read more here.

India’s Push to a Digital System Creates Rise in Digital Food Vouchers

After the India government instituted its currency ban last year, the cashless transaction has found its way into every industry. Last month, the government required that even meal vouchers must be digital by the end of 2017. The transition has been a boon for mobile wallet companies and app makers. Read more here.

World Food Programme Broadcasts Live Pitch Competition

The United Nation’s World Food Programme live-streamed 11 startups pitching their ideas in the final stage of the Global Impact Challenge. The teams had three minutes to explain how their solution could end global hunger, competing for a chance to attend Singularity University’s Global Solutions Programme. The winner would also receive $50,000 to $100,000 in support for the WFP Innovation Accelerator.

Former President of DuPont Crop Protection Rik Miller Joins Cool Planet Board of Directors

Biocarbon products startup Cool Planet has added 36-year ag industry veteran Rik Miller to the company’s board of directors. Miller was president of DuPont Crop Protection until 2015. Miller began his career with DuPont Crop Protection in 1984 and held several leadership positions in sales and marketing, including global business director, global marketing director and regional director–Europe, Middle East and Africa. Cool Planet President and CEO Jim Loar says Miller will add tremendous insight into large-scale commercialization of agricultural products as the company continues to grow sales of Cool Terra Engineered Biocarbon products

SunCulture Takes Steps to Relieve Hunger Epidemic in East Africa

East Africa is facing a massive humanitarian crisis as 20 million people are at risk of starvation. SunCulture, a startup that’s developed a solar-powered irrigation system, is trying to help by supplying organizations working in drought-hit regions with irrigation systems at a discount to stave off the drought.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • Fast food retailers are switching to antibiotic-free meat products, but the swap may be harder than many consumers or companies realize, reports Chicago Tribune.
  • A White House-requested report from the National Academy of Sciences looking at the main ways biotech may shape the future, said that cellular agriculture and so-called “clean meat” was a potential success, reports Good Food Institute.
  • The Netherlands may soon be home to Europe’s largest vertical farm, reports Climate Action Programme.

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