Ag Industry Brief: Village Capital and SWFF Join the 77 Resources Dedicated to Food and Ag Entrepreneurs, more

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Applications Are Open for Village Capital’s 2016 Ag Program

Entrepreneur support organization and investment firm, Village Capital, is now accepting applications for its 2016 Agriculture program. In its call for applications, the firm notes that “increasing pressure from consumers and the government on how agricultural products are grown, as well as volatile commodity markets and climate change, expose additional opportunity for disruption.” Partnering with organic and natural food company Hain Celestial and Blue Sky Network, Village Capital’s program provides selected entrepreneurs with 1:1 mentorship within the sector and tailored engagements with strategic investors and partners. At the end of the program, the top two peer-selected companies will receive $75,000 in investment. To find out about all the resources for startups in the food and agriculture sector in a new report, click here.

Securing Water for Food Announces 4th Call for Innovations

Securing Water for Food has announced its 4th call for innovations. Launched in 2013, Securing Water for Food aims to increase access to innovations that help farmers produce more food with less water, enhance water storage, and improve the use of saline water and soils to produce food. The $7.5 million global call for proposals is designed to connect innovators in the water-for-ag space —especially women — with the funding they need to scale their ideas and bring them to market. SWFF has helped innovators like Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies secure angel financing. Together, innovators have saved over 250 million liters of water, produced nearly 3,000 tons of food, and served more than 370,000 farmers in more than 25 low-resource countries and the program. Awardees will receive between $100k and $2 million in funding and acceleration support to bring their innovations to scale.

Monsanto Withdraws GM Cotton Seed Application from India over Disclosure Requirement

Major seed developer and ag chemical maker Monsanto has withdrawn its application for the approval of genetically engineered cotton in India after the government refused to remove a term in the license that would require Monsanto to share its technology with local seed businesses. The parties also reached protracted ground regarding how much the country would have to pay for the GM seed, called Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex. This seed variety is designed to thwart weeds that can deplete cotton plants of essential nutrients and lower yields. Outside of the Americas, India represents Monsanto’s biggest seed market. “Our decision to suspend this introduction in India is an outcome of the uncertainty in the business and regulatory environment, which includes the regulation of trait fees and introduction of the draft compulsory licensing guidelines,” Monsanto’s spokesperson said in a statement.

Skyward Partners with PrecisionHawk to Offer Combined Drones Product

PrecisionHawk and Skyward, both companies innovating in the drone space, have partnered to offer farmers and other industry customers, a package of technology tools. The companies are aiming to provide users with a one-stop shop that allows them to plan, map, manage, and analyze their assets using a drone platform. Customers of PrecisionHawk and Skyward will now have access to an end-to-end commercial drone operation management platform. There are three components to the platform: the integration of Skyward’s flight operations system with PrecisionHawk’s Lancaster Drone and other products, the integration of Skyward’s airspace intelligence tools into PrecisionHawk’s safety platform, and the end-to-end platform that offers everything from planning to data collection to analysis.

USDA Rolls Out Guidance on “Non-GMO” Packaging Claims

With the federal GMO labeling legislation set to take effect, many companies are now looking to label their products as non-GMO to capture consumers’ attention. The USDA has issued a set of guidance on how producers can legally use a non-GMO claim on their products. To help the USDA’s labeling department—the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS)—handle these claims, companies can now consult a compliance guidebook. It covers a wide variety of products and potential claims, including a label that indicates the product is derived from animals that were not fed bioengineered or genetically modified feedstocks.

USDA Releases Guidance on Industrial Hemp

The USDA dropped a guidance document for the industrial hemp industry to help inform producers and the public on how federal laws apply to the cultivation of the somewhat taboo plant. Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 legalized the growing and cultivating of industrial hemp for research purposes in States where cultivation is legal, despite Federal laws that deem cultivation a criminal act. Cultivation was limited, however, to growth and cultivation by an institution of higher education or State department of agriculture for purposes of agricultural or other academic research or under the auspices of a State agricultural pilot program for the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp.

Section 7606 did not provide a specific delegation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or any other agency to implement the program. The statute also failed to address a number of questions regarding the continuing application of Federal drug control statutes to the growth, cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of industrial hemp products, as well as the extent to which growth by private parties and sale of industrial hemp products are permissible. And itdid not remove industrial hemp from the controlled substances list.

Meanwhile… a New Derivatives Exchange for Hemp Hits the Market

Federal regulators have approved a new derivatives exchange for hemp, which is a key ingredient in a number of products including everything from clothing to fuels. Not to be confused with its biological relative marijuana, hemp must contain less than 0.3% of THC, the active ingredient that creates the high most users seek when ingesting marijuana. Currently, a bill to remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substance Act’s ambit is pending in Congress and has garnered the support of 14 senators—both democratic and republican. A similar measure in the House of Reps has gained 73 co-sponsors, but both bills have a long way to go in the legislative process before they hit the President’s desk.

Tyson’s Investors Want the Company to Make Some Big Changes

A group of Tyson’s investors along with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have submitted a series of shareholder resolutions calling on the company to make adjustments to some of its social, environmental, and governance policies. The five resolutions, which will come up for vote on the major poultry producer’s 2017 ballot cover water impacts, animal welfare, diversity among board members, lobbying disclosures, and plant-based diet trends. Regarding the last topic, the shareholders are hungry to learn what Tyson may do to address what it sees as a threat to the market share from plant-based food items and consumers’ growing appetites for these products. A video of Tyson employees maltreating chickens was posted online a few weeks ago.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • Starbucks has finally added almond milk to its menu, on Good Food Institute.
  • General Mills has been named in four lawsuits claiming the company’s use of the label “natural” on certain products is misleading because it sources ingredients that have been exposed to pesticides, on FoodNavigator-USA.
  • The USDA is planning another egg buyout to reduce the surplus, on FoodDIVE.

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