Industry-in-Brief: Indonesia Partners with Fish Traceability Tech, Costco to Open, Chicken Processor, Investment Firms Merge, more

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Indonesian Government Meets Scottish Fisheries Traceability Business

The Indonesian Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, met with traceability technology company Traceall Global this week. The meeting was part of a visit program to Scotland to launch a project that aims to reduce illegal fishing, which is costing Indonesia $20 billion a year, according to the Financial Times. Illegal fishing in Indonesian waters is a major issue for the government’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. Although currently capturing 1.5 tons of illegal fish each year, it faces difficulties in tracking vessels around the country’s islands and archipelagos. As part of her visit, the Minister signed a memorandum of understanding to work with Glasgow-based Traceall Global to carry out an initial pilot project aimed at reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). The aim of the full rollout of Traceall Global’s FishTrace Technology is to use advanced monitoring and traceability technology to eliminate IUU completely.

Traceall Global will work with the Indonesian Government to develop an electronic fisheries management logbook, eliminating the existing paper-based logging process moving all data capture to 24-hour real-time systems. The new systems will be implemented on all Indonesian fishing vessels to support the tracking and traceability of their fishing catch and achieve the Indonesian Government’s objective of stopping illegal fishing.

Verdesian Life Sciences Adds Vice President of Business Development

Plant health and nutrition company Verdesian Life Sciences has hired Marc Treurniet to serve as its vice president of business development. In this new role, Treurniet will be responsible for providing overall strategic vision, planning and leadership to grow and develop global partnerships and key industry relationships. Prior to joining the Verdesian team, Treurniet was an integral business development leader at companies such as Syngenta and DuPont working in agricultural markets globally.  In his most recent role, Treurniet was responsible for the development and implementation of seed treatment business strategy, which included product development needs, marketing, and customer-focused commercialization plans. Launched in 2012, Verdesian was created by agribusiness private equity firm Paine & Partners to invest in plant health and nutrition products.

Indianapolis Investment Firms Merge under US Agriculture Name

Indianapolis investment advisers US Agriculture and Halderman Real Asset Management have merged to form a new entity that will operate as US Agriculture. USAG managing director Anatole Pevnev will lead the business. Founded in 2015 by Hageman Group, US Agriculture focuses on institutional investment in farmland. Halderman Real Asset Management founder and president Howard Halderman will serve as executive chairman of the combined operation’s board of managers. He says the merger “will open significantly more investment opportunities and allow us to expand the breadth and depth of what we offer investors.”

Costco to Open Chicken Processing Plant

Major wholesale retailer Costco is planning to open its own poultry processing plant allowing it to exercise greater control over its Kirkland Signature brand chicken products. Sustainability and cost cutting are the two main tenants behind the move. “Most plants can have up to 300 items they produce to please all their customers. This is a purpose built plant that will produce 18 SKUS for us. This gives us the chance to be very efficient,” Jeffrey Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president merchandising, fresh foods, told The retailer is reportedly eyeing Nebraska as the future home of its plant, which is set to reach full production in 2019. Currently, sales from Costco’s Kirkland brand constitute 20 percent of total merchandise sold. Costco will continue its relationship with major poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride, which produces for the company in Alabama.

Food E-Commerce Companies Feel the Squeeze as Pepper Tap and Private Chef App Close Down

By now, we’re used to reading reports indicating that India’s food e-commerce startups are having trouble staying in business. Last week, for example, Gurgaon-based online grocery delivery service PepperTap shut down, marking the fourth company to tap out in recent months, and possibly the largest; PepperTap had raised over $50 million from venture investors as recent as December. This week, San Francisco-based on-demand private chef app Kitchit has also announced that it’s closing down after a five-year run. A statement on the company’s website indicates that a number of factors are to blame for the bust. “Diners had a hard time differentiating between so many talented chefs; substantial back and forth was required to plan a meal; and our price points—typically $75-125 per person—remained out of reach for most would-be users.”

Vermont Mandatory GMO Labeling Countdown

Food manufacturers have only 63 days until Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law takes effect. Some companies are feeling the pressure, however, and the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association (VRGA) is supporting a proposal to amend the bill to delay the effective date for the legislation’s private cause of action component until December 31, 2017. This would not change the bill’s requirements regarding mandatory labeling, but it would allow companies to take advantage of the bill’s current six-month safe harbor provision for a much longer period of time.

Meanwhile, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has called for more research and information about whether GE crops are contaminating organic crop production operations. The group is planning to press the USDA to fund a study in 2017. According to the agency’s 2014 organic agriculture survey, organic farmers tallied over $6 million in crop loss associated with GE contamination.

“The data that we really need to identify first is whether contamination is coming from the seed or from pollen drift, or from post-harvest handling,” Zea Sonnabend, one of the panel’s 15 members, said during the group’s meeting in Washington, DC, Tuesday. “The marketplace data collection is ‘are you being contaminated?’ not ‘where is it coming from?'” Officials from the USDA cautioned that a proposal would need to be submitted by early fall of this year in order for any funding allocation to be considered.

California Cannabis Company GreenRush to Hold Job Fair This Weekend

The GreenRush, a Californian online cannabis ordering platform, is hosting its inaugural job fair on April 30 at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. With California on the verge of legalizing recreational cannabis use, the company is encouraging interested professionals to find employment in the rapidly growing sector with its Join the GreenRush job fair. The event will offer job seekers access to multiple facets of the industry including retail, technology, cultivation, manufacturing, marketing, and genetics. Professionals from a wide variety of cannabis companies will be in attendance, according to GreenRush, including Bhang Chocolate, Headset, Hello MD, Bud and Breakfast, and Strovia. So far, over 2,500 attendee tickets have been sold.

Oxfam Names Unilever, Nestle, Coca-Cola as 2015 Top 10 Sustainable Companies

Oxfam International, the global charity, has released its latest sustainability report card for the world’s 10 largest companies. Unilever topped the ‘2016 Behind the Brands list, receiving high marks  in climate control as well as farmers’ and workers’ rights. It also showed improvements in women’s rights and water management compared to last year’s report card. Second place went to Nestle and third place went to Coca-Cola. Learn more about how these major international companies scored here.

USDA Refuses Indiana Farmers’ Claim for Payment after Agency’s Methyl Bromide Spray Kills Cattle

The US Department of Agriculture has declined to pay two Idaho families who filed claims alleging that the agency’s pesticide treatment using methyl bromide poisoned their cattle herd and crops. Discovered in 2006, the Potato Cyst Nematode poses a serious threat to the state’s $900 million potato crop. In 2007, the UDSA launched a program to eradicate the pest using methyl bromide, a well-recognized but rarely used pesticide. The program was ended in 2014 after it became clear that the treatment was having unintended negative consequences on local cattle herds, including oozing lesions and spontaneous calf abortions. Despite tests performed by the families showing the presence of methyl bromide-related residues on pastures, the USDA said it was not convinced that the methyl bromide caused the alleged damages. The families are faced with the difficult choice of taking no action or bringing a lawsuit against the agency that could run up major litigation costs and last for several years. Read more here.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

– A number of refugees are finding new career paths in the food industry, reports Eater.

– Rumors are flying that Google is launching an in-house startup accelerator. Get the dirt over at The Verge.

– How the Syrian war crisis is destroying the region’s food supply on Reuters.

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