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.

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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.

Bayer Gauging Expectations from Environmental Groups Ahead of Monsanto Merger

As Bayer waits for the final go-ahead from regulators to merge with Monsanto, the company is coming to terms with what its role could be as the largest agriculture business in the world.

“The reality is Bayer is going to come together with Monsanto and this is going to be the biggest company in the agricultural space. With that, it’s going to have an awful lot of responsibility,” said Liam Condon, CEO of Bayer CropScience at a roundtable Bayer recently convened in Washington, DC. The discussion was designed to bring together all manner of non-industry stakeholders including environmental groups, nonprofit organizations, academics and a local corn, soy and wheat farmer.

Condon said the conversation was about gauging “expectations” for the new company, signaling that Bayer is aware of the controversy it is taking on with this deal. 

In case there were any illusions that public perception of Monsanto had warmed, the St. Louis company made USA Today’s list of the “America’s Top 20 most-hated companies” this past February – which was compiled using data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, employee testimonials on Glassdoor, and USA Today internal data.

Though the table was stocked with probable opponents of Bayer and Monsanto such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the conversation focused around what Bayer can do to build trust with the various stakeholders and consumers more broadly.

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com

Five Cultured Meat Startups Raise Funding as Fledgling Industry Comes into Focus

So far in 2018, at least five startups using cellular agriculture, the science behind cultured meat that can be used to manufacture many animal products in a lab setting, have raised funds as this fledgling industry diversifies and grows.

First in January, SuperMeat, an Israeli cultured meat startup, raised a $3 million seed round to develop its cultured chicken product. Also that month, Tyson Food Ventures joined Memphis Meats’s $17 million Series A round, originally announced last August.

In March, Wild Earth,  a Berkeley, California-based startup focusing on pet food raised a $4 million seed round. Just a few weeks later, The Wild Type, a San Francisco-based startup raised a $3.5 million seed round to focus on culturing salmon.

Perfect Day Foods, a California startup using cellular agriculture to produce dairy products raised a $24.7 million Series A round earlier this month.

And though its not quite funding news, it is also notable that, JUST (formerly Hampton Creek), which has forecasted that it would have a cultured meat product on shelves this year, lost its director of cellular agriculture and another leading researcher in January, who then incorporated a company called Mission Barns, according to Gizmodo. The JUST positions have since been filled. 

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.

HelloFresh Taps Spoiler Alert to Cut Food Waste by 65%

In less than a year, international meal kit player HelloFresh has reduced its land-fill bound waste by 65% with the help of Boston-based startup Spoiler Alert, a software and professional services startup that helps food businesses manage unsold inventory.

The meal kit company contacted Spoiler Alert in the spring of 2017 and began a pilot with HelloFresh’s New Jersey distribution center in July. By December, they were ready to roll out the program in all of HelloFresh’s US centers. HelloFresh delivered 39.5 million meals to customers in the three-month period from October 2017 to December 2017.

“[Spoiler Alert] integrates very easily into our data infrastructure. We first tested it at one site and our Table to Table [food rescue] partner was very positive on the tool. We very quickly went from an initial screen to the pilot,” HelloFresh COO and managing director Uwe Voss told AgFunderNews.

Read the full story at www.AgFunderNews.com.