John Deere’s demand forecast in limbo amid trade uncertainty

John Deere is optimistic that the fundamentals underlying the agriculture economy remain strong, but the company is in limbo gauging demand for replacement equipment until the U.S. and China reveal an outcome of the trade war.

Investor Communications Manager Brent Norwood said on the company’s recent earnings call that Deere expects sales growth in the U.S. and Canada this year could be flat, or it could be up to 5%. The wild card is trade uncertainty. 

On the call, analyst and executives discussed whether the changes to trade flows occurring in response to the changing tides of tariffs may be permanent, even if the trade war subsides. “We’ve always said, the trade routes will be realigned and the trade flows will readjust and it’s going to be bumpy when that happens for a couple of years,” CFO Raj Kalathur said.

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Farmers can ship and haul with new digital booking tool

Indigo Agriculture, a seed technology company and grain transaction marketplace, has launched an automated freight brokerage platform exclusively for dry, bulk agricultural goods, according a statement on the company’s website

Growers can choose Indigo Transport when they accept a bid for their grain in the digital platform, turning over the arrangement of the pickup to Indigo. Carriers register on the platform and choose loads based on location, price, destination and company. Indigo claims to have thousands of carriers already vetted and registered.

The service is currently restricted to corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and other non-grain, dry bulk commodity freight that can be transported via hoppers. Indigo’s statement indicated freight options will expand in the future. 

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World’s largest grain traders partner to digitize transactions

The world’s four largest grain traders are banding together to replace paper-based processes —namely contracts, invoices, and payments — with digital ones to increase reliability, efficiency and transparency, according to a press release.

Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) have teamed up to develop standardized tools to digitize agrishipping with the initial goal of automating post-trade execution processes.

“The companies also seek broad-based industry participation to promote global access and adoption,” reads a statement jointly issued by all four players.

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Walmart asks lettuce suppliers to trace products using blockchain

Walmart is turning to blockchain to trace leafy greens, an increasingly common move for any industry that needs to increase visibility from coffee to shipping containers.

“Suppliers will be required to capture digital, end-to-end traceability event information using the IBM Food Trust network,” according to the company. The letter to suppliers describes the software as both user-friendly and low-cost.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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