Former Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb Joins S2G Ventures as Exec-in-Residence

In the wake of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods just over a year ago, some of the company’s brightest talent have been entering the agrifood tech investment ecosystem.

Former vice president of grocery Errol Schweizer is now on the board of farm to consumer delivery service Good Eggs, insect farm Aspire Food Group and a large handful of other startups. Former global director of local brands product innovation Elly Truesdell is now chief strategy officer at consumer packaged goods (CPG) investor Canopy Foods.

But, the brightest talent of these departures is former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb, who saw the acquisition through and left the company to form Stonewall Robb Advisors in 2017 to advise, invest in and mentor individuals and organizations committed to social justice and animal welfare.

Today, Chicago-based agrifood VC S2G Ventures announced that Robb will serve as executive-in-residence at the firm, helping the team identify new investments and mentor portfolio entrepreneurs who are moving the food system toward sustainability and health.

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.

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Email reveals who’s really paying for Amazon Prime’s new discount at Whole Foods: vendors

The thing about straws is you never know which one is going to break the camel’s back. And though many or most suppliers of Whole Foods Market may not know it yet, the company is in the middle of rolling out yet another pretty hefty straw. This could be the one.

In early June, Whole Foods announced what many knew was coming—a significant  integration of Amazon’s prized Prime membership program into its crown-jewel acquisition, Whole Foods Market. As of June 25, Amazon Prime members will receive an extra 10 percent discount on “hundreds of sale items” at Whole Foods stores nationwide.

“Since launching Prime savings at Whole Foods Market, we’ve seen excitement and momentum from both Prime members and our supplier partners,” said A.C. Gallo, president and COO of Whole Foods Market in a statement. Flyers and Whole Foods team members are in place to educate customers in-store.

But if shoppers are getting a discount, someone in the supply chain is taking the hit. And in the case of the Amazon Prime discount, internally called the Prime Savings Program, it’s food companies, large and small, that are getting stuck with the bill.

Read the full story at www.NewFoodEconomy.org.

The World’s Most High Tech Indoor Farm Doesn’t Grow Food or Cannabis

“The real transfection of plants to make biopharmaceuticals was hatched in Palo Alto in a bar called the Sundance Mining Company in 1987,” Barry Holtz, CEO of iBio CDMO, the world’s most high-tech indoor farm, told delegates at the recent Indoor Agtech Innovation Summit in Brooklyn, NY.

Transfection is the introduction of foreign DNA into plant cells in order to instruct them to create specific proteins. Essentially, iBio turns plants into bioreactors, Holtz explained.

iBio uses highly automated indoor farming methods to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs and, according to Holtz, it already has much of the technology that today’s food-growing indoor farms are just starting to develop.

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.

Indoor Farmers Are “Way Too Complacent” About Food Safety

“If you mess up indoors, everything is magnified,” says Sarah Taber.

Taber is an independent food safety consultant specializing in indoor farming. Previously she served as director of food safety for The Aquaponics Association after earning a Doctorate of Plant Medicine. At the association, she saw startups pitch to investors a risk-free way of farming, and that’s where the worrying began, says Taber.

Since then she has worked with half a dozen hydroponic indoor farming operations of various sizes, funding sources, and technologies and her early worries are now full-blown concerns about the safety of the food grown on indoor farming for consumers. And with food safety scandals increasingly hitting the headlines — just last month thousands of pounds of romaine lettuce were recalled when 200 people became ill and five died — it’s time some indoor ag players stopped being “way too complacent” and woke up to the dangers, says Taber. (She chose not to name the farms due to non-disclosure agreements.)

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.

2 Disruptive AgriFood Tech Startups Face Industry Backlash

It should come as no surprise that many startups face a backlash from the industries they aim to disrupt as they threaten the status quo and ultimately create competition or redundancy. But it can be surprising when technologies, aiming to make an existing process faster, cheaper, more efficient, or more enjoyable, face hurdles from incumbent players that they’re not necessarily competing with.

This is the case for two agrifood tech startups operating at very different ends of the supply chain: Phytelligence, a biotech micropropagation business, and food assistance app developer Propel are both in disputes with industry players about the rollout of their technologies that could impact their success to the detriment of the industries they serve.

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.

The Future of Venture Capital at Bayer-Monsanto: It’s Complicated

It’s official. The Bayer-Monsanto merger will finally close on Thursday. The new entity will keep the name Bayer and cast off the name Monsanto.

Though the physical closure of the more than $60 billion transaction will take place on Thursday, June 6, US regulators require the two companies to continue to function as separate entities until Bayer’s seed division, along with a few other portfolios, can be sold to BASF, as announced in April. Thanks to European regulators, this transaction likely won’t close for another two months, Liam Condon, CEO of Bayer CropScience, told reporters on a call Monday. 

Until the divestments to BASF go through, Bayer is not legally allowed to gain access to Monsanto’s “confidential data,” as Condon described. Though Bayer will own Monsanto, it can’t look too deep under the hood just yet.

What we know so far about the post-merger reality (and it’s not much) suggests that casting off Monsanto’s name may be more of a gesture than a literal representation of the new reality. Bayer announced a handful of top executives at the integrated Bayer three weeks ago, but on the media conference call, Condon said that further details are likely to be delayed a few more months.

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.

Bayer is Not Shying Away from Monsanto’s Controversies with Post-Merger Exec Team

Bayer has started making practical moves towards combining its business with Monsanto’s ahead of the completed merger, which it expects will close by the end of the quarter.

Last week the German company announced the executive leadership team of the new combined crop science team with five out of the 10 positions announced coming from Monsanto.

With this merger, Bayer is taking on some of the most controversial issues in agriculture and absorbing a company that has battled an overwhelmingly negative reputation, ranking in the bottom five of the Harris Poll’s Corporate Reputation Quotient since 2014 along with Haliburton, Wells Fargo, and 2018 new addition, The Weinstein Company.

From the safety of GMO foods to the ubiquity and safety of the company’s flagship herbicide glyphosate — which is again in the news even today — to the newest tangle of lawsuits regarding anther controversial herbicide Dicamba, Bayer is wading into some very hot water.

And though some see the merger as tarnishing Bayer by association, including Bayer employees reportedly, others see it as an opportunity for Monsanto to step away from a name mired in controversy and start afresh.

However, the list of executives moving from Monsanto to Bayer reveals which Monsanto voices Bayer has decided to hold on to and suggests a complete overhaul is not in the cards. 

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.