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Future of Agriculture

Welcome to the Future of Agriculture Podcast with Tim Hammerich. This show explores the people, companies, and ideas shaping the future of agribusiness. If you are curious about innovations in AgTech, rural entrepreneurship, agricultural sustainability, and food security, this is the show for you! For more details on the guests featured on this show, visit the blog at www.FutureOfAg.com. Or, to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture, visit www.AgGrad.com Make sure you’re subscribed so you can catch another fascinating ag innovator next week!
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Now displaying: Category: Agriculture Business
Aug 4, 2021

PMA Takes on Tech: https://www.pma.com/content/podcast/takes-on-tech
Aromyx: https://www.aromyx.com/

Today's two part episode starts off with a higher-level picture of the innovations in produce with Vonnie Estes, vice president of technology for the Produce Marketing Association. Then we’ll drill deeper into one aspect of food quality, arguably the most important aspect of food quality: flavor. For that we’ll talk to Josh Silverman, CEO of Aromyx, a company that is digitizing taste and smell.

I was able to sit down with Vonnie Estes and capture some valuable insights about the challenges and opportunities of bringing technology to the produce industry, the role of indoor agriculture in fresh produce, alternative funding models for companies that want to serve some of these niches, and the digitization of quality and of supply chains, which will of course lead us into part two with Josh. 

Vonnie Estes is the VP of Technology at the Produce Marketing Association.  She has held leadership positions at prominent companies including DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta along with start-ups including DNAP, Emergent Genetics, and Caribou Biosciences. Vonnie has a BS in Horticulture from New Mexico State and a Masters in Plant Pathology from UC Davis. 

Also joining me is Aromyx CEO Josh Silverman. Josh has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, and is a serial entrepreneur. He has been the founder of 5 different biotech companies, including some in the new protein ingredient space. It was through these experiences of trying to bring sustainable foods and ingredients to the market that he realized flavor is most important, but was also really subjective and nearly impossible to predict. So he joined Aromyx, and the company just recently a $10 million series A round with investors that included the Rabobank Food & Agri Innovation Fund. 

 

Jul 28, 2021

This episode is brought to you by AgVend (www.AgVend.com

Today’s installment of our Tech-Enabled Advisor series is really an insightful look at how a farmer-owned cooperative is leaning into the digital changes that are happening in our industry to remain relevant and provide value to their farmer shareholders.  KC Graner is the senior vice president of agronomy at Central Farm Service, a co-op in southern Minnesota. As an advocate of the cooperative system, KC has spent his career embedded in member-owned organizations. Prior to taking on his role at Central Farm Service, KC worked at WinField United, serving over two dozen different retail cooperatives across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.  

For today’s episode, we are partnering with AgVend. You may remember AgVend from  Episode 125 back in 2018 with CEO Alexander Reichert. AgVend is the leading provider of digital tools to serve the producer of tomorrow. Their suite of products is designed to strengthen the relationship between manufacturers, retailers, and growers by providing the agricultural distribution channel with white-labeled information, engagement, and commerce portals. They make it easier to do business with ag retailers, help them unlock profitability for their growers, and make more time for high-value touchpoints. 

“What we've seen is the outperformance of growers who do leverage data and do look to it first in making their decisions. Those are the ones that are outperforming the rest…. Those are the growers that are picking up acres more rapidly.” - KC Graner

KC shares what offering an AgVend portal has done for Central Farm Service’s business. Central Farm Service has grown their locally-powered precision agriculture platform, which is called Central Advantage, to a 300,000 acre footprint that cooperates with two neighboring retailers. He sees their operation as a “B.S. meter” for the farmer and a way to trial and troubleshoot new technology to present the best options to producers.

“When I look at the adoption rate for use in our portal, there's a high correlation to those that are selling the most revenue and the most margin for the cooperative and using the portal. It's because they already naturally are the types of people that find ways to save time so they can do more.” - KC Graner

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet KC Graner, the vice president of agronomy at Central Farm Service, a coop in southern Minnesota
  • Explore the use of data by the coop and how it has impacted their business
  • Discover the advantages and benefits of the AgVend platform he uses to support his producers

Thanks to AgVend for sponsoring this episode. Make sure you go learn more about them at www.AgVend.com 

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Jul 21, 2021

Today’s episode is broken down into three parts: first, a brief primer on some of the issues contributing to the issues in California. Second, one potential hydrological solution going forward: groundwater recharge. And finally, we’ll talk about water markets by highlighting the new Nasdaq Veles California Water Index. To help me tell each of these three stories I have for you three different guests that you’ll hear from today: Dr. Safeeq Khan, Dr. Helen Dahlke, and Lance Coogan.

 

You can also listen to previous episodes 159 with Dr. David Zetland, 161 with Adam Borchard, or 198 with Chris Peacock to get more information about these topics. 

Jul 14, 2021

Resilient Biotics: https://resilientbiotics.com/

Fulcrum Global Capital: https://www.fgcvc.com/ 

My guest on today’s show is Chris Belnap, the CEO of Resilient Biotics, which is an early-stage animal health company that develops microbiome-derived, live therapeutics for livestock. In other words, they analyze the microbes that naturally live inside of cattle, then they administer those that are most beneficial to make the cattle more resilient to certain diseases. Specifically they are focused on a biological solution to bovine respiratory disease, which is currently very reliant on antibiotics. 

Resilient Biotics is a portfolio company of Fulcrum Global Capital, which long time listeners will remember have partnered with me on several episodes in the past. What stands out about Fulcrum, and you can probably pick up on this if you’ve listened to all of these episodes with portfolio companies from their first fund, is that their LPs, their investors, are from production agriculture. They care about solving real problems in the food system. 

One of the perks of these Fulcrum episodes for you and I is that we get to hear briefly from the investors first about what attracted them to this company, then we dive into the entrepreneur’s story. So joining me today is Fulcrum venture partner John Peryam, who along with his venture partners Duane Cantrell and Kevin Lockett, had been looking at potential companies who could help reduce reliance on antibiotics. 

Jul 7, 2021

Ranveer Chandra: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/people/ranveer/

Overview of Azure FarmBeats: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/industry/agriculture/overview-azure-farmbeats 

FarmBeats: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/bill-gates-features-farmbeats-on-gatesnotes/

Microsoft has been making waves in the agtech industry with its FarmBeats project and Azure cloud computing service. That effort can be traced back to 2015 when today’s guest, Ranveer Chandra, wrote a memo which led to him starting and running the FarmBeats project. FarmBeats for those who do not know, provides a way to collect on-farm data and track that data using cloud computing models. It’s not a product that farmers buy, but it’s a platform that agtech companies build upon. In fact, previous guests of this show are customers of Microsoft to power their technology.   

Ranveer is the Chief Scientist of Microsoft Azure Global, and Partner Researcher at Microsoft Research. He started the FarmBeats project at Microsoft in 2015, and has been leading it since then. He is also leading the battery research project, and the white space networking project at Microsoft Research. That is a project where he provided rural connectivity using unused TV channels. He was invited to the USDA to present his work on FarmBeats, and this work was featured by Bill Gates in GatesNotes, and was selected by Satya Nadella as one of 10 projects that inspired him in 2017.  Ranveer has published more than 80 papers, and filed over 100 patents, more than 85 of which have been granted by the USPTO. 

Both FarmBeats and the TV white spaces projects started with memos, and as you’ll hear, Ranveer wrote his 2020 memo on sustainability. So we also get into the discussion about sustainability metrics and Microsoft’s big open source carbon purchase from a few months ago. 

Jun 30, 2021

World Resources Institute: https://www.wri.org/

Follow Rich on Twitter: https://twitter.com/waiterich

Recent blog post: https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/08/us-agriculture-emissions-food 

More from Rich: https://www.wri.org/profile/richard-waite 

Our guest today has spent years diving into this question of the environmental impacts of the food system, and what can be done to optimize the amount of food that gets produced and distributed, while minimizing the negative externalities of that system. 

Rich Waite is a Senior Research Associate in World Resources Institute’s Food Program. He is an author of the World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future, which focuses on solutions to feed 10 billion people by 2050, including boosting agricultural productivity, reducing food loss and waste, shifting toward plant-rich diets, and protecting and restoring forests and other natural ecosystems. Rich is also the Data Lead for Cool Food, an initiative that helps major food providers reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions in line with climate science. Prior to joining WRI in 2007, Rich lived in Cameroon for four years, where he served as an agroforestry extension agent with the U.S. Peace Corps and helped coordinate the U.S. Embassy’s international development programs.

Rich and I discuss that, for all the talk about climate change, there has been very little progress to reducing the carbon footprint of the food system. We discuss why actions must be taken, and what the data tells us about what levers can be pulled to realistically make that happen while producing and distributing adequate amounts of nutritious food to people around the world. 

Jun 23, 2021

Thanks to FieldAgent by Sentera for sponsoring. Visit https://sentera.com/

On today’s episode I’m joined by Todd Vagts who is a technical agronomist for the Channel Seed brand which is part of Bayer Crop Science. Based in southeast Minnesota, Todd works with Channel salespeople and seed dealers (who they called “Seedsmen”), to make sure they are up to date with technologies and to problem-solve in the field. Todd is a farmer as well - lives 30 minutes from the farm where he grew up. Todd has a master’s in Agronomy from Texas A&M, and stayed down in Texas to focus on cotton for a while before coming back to the midwest where he is focused now. 

Todd has been interested in drones for over a decade, but as you'll hear it took a while for them to really find a place in his day-to-day work.

Jun 16, 2021

Today’s episode highlights two interesting consumer trends in food and agriculture. And on the surface, these two trends seem to be going in totally opposite directions, but not necessarily as you’ll hear from our guest today. 

The first trend is the increasing desire for healthier, simpler, more nutritious food. The second is that demand for processed food is strong and getting stronger. You might be thinking, wait aren’t those two things complete opposites? 

Well, not necessarily. Our guest today, Joanne Zhang is the founder of Phytoption, a food ingredient company that uses proprietary technology that allows them to replace certain ingredients in processed food that are synthetic or modified - like certain emulsifiers and texturing agents, with essentially simple flour like rice flour or chickpea flour. This allows more processed foods to be made with more naturally occurring ingredients. 

As you’ll hear Joanne describe, these ingredients are used because they make food functional. For example, they help give a plant-based beverage the same texture as cow milk. Joanne’s technology allows these basic flours to serve the same functions without having to be chemically treated or altered in any way. 

Important to note before we dive into today’s interview is that Joanne’s company Phytoption, will be separating this food division into a new company Flouring, LLC and Phytoption will continue to focus on pharmaceuticals. So you’ll hear us mention both Phytoption and Flouring, LLC in the episode because they are currently the same company. 

Joanne started the company using technology developed by Purdue University after a career as a food scientist. I was connected to Joanne by Amy Wu, who is the author of the new book “From Farms to Incubators: Women Innovators Revolutionizing How Our Food is Grown”. Joanne is one of several women innovators featured in the book and I highly recommend you pick it up. 

I told Amy how much I enjoyed the book and that I would like to interview some of the women she featured, and she said she had considered doing a podcast as well, so we decided it would be fun to interview Joanne together, and a couple of other women trailblazers in agtech that you’ll meet in future episodes later this year. 

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Jun 9, 2021

My guest today, Allan Fetters, is a third generation agriculturalist who has worked in agribusiness for over 30 years. I say agriculturalist, because he was not born into a farm family, but a family that has been working selling products to farmers. However, he recently also started doing some farming himself in addition to his consulting. 

In today’s episode, I try to glean as many insights as I can from Allan’s vast experience in agriculture technology. We touch many of the important aspects of specialty crop agtech such as water, labor, pest management, and the need for yield data. Allan explains why he believes that we are still in the very early days of digital agriculture. 

I could spend several minutes describing Allan’s successful career, but I’ll sum it up by telling you that he has spent most of his career in field research, sales, marketing, business management, and technology development and implementation. Until 2019 Allan worked as the director of technology at Simplot, the global agribusiness based right here in my area of Boise, Idaho. 

Currently, as principal of AGceleration Advisory Service, Allan works with companies to introduce new innovations to agriculture, including testing, evaluating, and analysis. 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Jun 2, 2021

Today’s episode is all about data and technology for the modern dairy. But even if you’re not specifically interested in the dairy industry, you’re going to want to stick around. And here’s why: one of the big challenges to agtech is the long feedback loop. You try a technology out for an entire year and you get one shot - harvest to see how it performed. Dairy is way different. That scorecard happens three times per day when the cows are milked. This rapid feedback loop has allowed dairies to embrace data analytics arguably faster than other areas of agriculture. And I would argue all of ag could learn a thing or two from this episode. 

We have on the show Jordan Lambert. Jordan is the VP of Business Development for VAS, a software and data analytics company that provides sustainability and profitability insights to dairy producers. Jordan grew up on a dairy farm in rural Colorado, and graduated from my alma mater, UC Davis with a bachelor’s in Biotechnology.  She spent her early career as a genetic engineer before pursuing an MBA at Harvard. From there her career took her into consulting and back into agriculture with a role at Indigo. But she returned to Colorado and to the dairy industry to take this position with VAS. 

There’s some great stuff here on data including collection, standardization, and privacy. As well as some interesting discussion towards the end about what it’s like to have private and cooperative ownership in the company, and how sustainability metrics are increasing the need for farm-level data.

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

May 26, 2021

PLEASE COMPLETE OUR LISTENER SURVEY: https://airtable.com/shrCB33GWIUCIxVRU

Today you’re going to get to hear the story of Dave Oien of Timeless Seeds and Timeless Food. He shares how he figured out how to convert to organic when very few thought it was possible, then how we built a seed business that ultimately became a food business. And make sure you stay to the end for some really interesting comments about resiliency. 

Dave returned to the farm in Montana and convinced his dad in the 1970s to let him convert the farm to organic. Then, over the next four decades he built a seed business and a food business selling organic lentils and chickpeas as well as ancient grains and some other farm products. 

His story is so remarkable, it was made into a book called “Lentil Underground.”

This episode was created and originally was published as a part of another podcast I host called Growing Pulse Crops. Audrey Kalil who produces that show has graciously allowed me to re-air the episode on my show because I think it’s so good. So if you’re at all interested in pulse crop production - that’s peas, chickpeas, and lentils, go check out that show: Growing Pulse Crops on any podcast platform. 

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

May 19, 2021

Today’s episode is brought to you by FarmQA (www.FarmQA.com

Today’s guest is Shannon Winny with GroWest Ag Ventures in Central Saskatchewan. She is a Professional Agronomist and a Certified Crop Advisor. About 18 months ago she decided to start her own company to meet the need for independent agronomy services in Saskatchewan.

Farming is a team sport. Certainly nobody shares the same risk profile as a farmer, but every successful farmer that I can think of has strong relationships with people like consultants, agronomists, farm marketers, other farmers, extension agents, researchers, and more. These trusted advisors often serve as the extension of that farm business and play critical roles in the decision-making. 

These individuals are all too often overlooked by agtech companies and agribusinesses. So this summer I’m hosting a tech-enabled advisor series. One episode per month will be dedicated to featuring one of these trusted advisors to learn about their business, their tech stack, and how they view the future of agriculture as it pertains to the farmer customers in their area.

“I saw the fit that farms need a hundred percent unbiased, independent agronomy recommendations. It's really hard as the retail agronomist to maintain a hundred percent and be a hundred percent impartial when you know what's in the chem shed, how much margin you're making off specific products, stuff like that. So I decided to go the completely independent route.” - Shannon Winny

 

Shannon’s services are charged by the acre, sample or hour but because of her business model she is not beholden to quotas or specific products. This allows her to maintain an unbiased approach for producers that will provide them the best advice and benefits. She has circumvented the obstacle of producer adoption of different software by using the all inclusive, customizable, intuitive software from FarmQA. Farmers are able to see real time data and reports to monitor, save and analyze the data their operation provides.

 

“Agriculture is just changing so rapidly and we need to start really targeting specific zones and how to effectively manage those zones because land is expensive. We should manage the land that we have as efficiently and effectively as possible to be profitable.” - Shannon Winny

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Shannon Winny, an independent agronomy consultant with GroWest Ag Ventures in Central Saskatchewan
  • Discover the advantages and benefits of the FarmQA technology she uses as an independent consultant

 

Thanks to FarmQA for sponsoring this episode. Make sure you go learn more about them at www.FarmQA.com and tell them thank you on Twitter @farm_qa.

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

May 12, 2021

Check out the SWAT Agronomy Podcast on any podcast platform!


 Please participate in our listener survey to help us focus the direction of the show:  https://airtable.com/shrCB33GWIUCIxVRU

If you’ve ever tried to grow any food crop - shoot, even a garden - you know that insect pests are unavoidable. Over the past 100 years, chemical pesticides have been developed as efficient and cost effective ways for farmers to manage these pests. But as I’m sure you know, they are not without their downsides: pests are building resistance, they are constantly under environmental scrutiny, and frankly, there hasn’t been much innovation in this space. 

Our guests today, Anna Rath and Ben Cicora of the company Vestaron say: we’ve seen this before. They’ll lay out a case for you that what’s happening right now in ag chem has already played out in human chemistry. The clear winner has been biotechnology: namely using peptides, which are essentially just proteins except smaller, instead of chemistry. In human pharmaceuticals, this gave rise to companies like Genentech and Amgen. In agriculture, Vestaron is pioneering their peptide-based products that have the same effectiveness as the chemical alternatives, but with a new mode of action, and without some of those negative externalities of chemicals. 

Now I want to be clear here, because it can get confusing: peptides are different from other biologicals that you hear about in agriculture, and may have even heard about on this show. Those are generally microbes, these are short chain amino acids. Again, they’re basically proteins, only smaller. So they’re not ag chemicals, but they’re also not biologicals in the classic agricultural definition of the term. Making this clear is actually part of their challenge in commercialization, which we get into in this episode. 

I know some of this gets a little technical, but I highly recommend you stick around and have a listen to this episode. If this is the first time you’re hearing about peptides, I guarantee you it won’t be the last. 

 

May 5, 2021

Please participate in our listener survey to help us focus the direction of the show:  https://airtable.com/shrCB33GWIUCIxVRU 

While we here in the U.S. have an agricultural system built upon exports, while our guest today lives in Abu Dhabi, part of the United Arab Emirates which currently imports 80% of their food. What we view here as needed viable technology to create a more sustainable agriculture is likely to be different there. 

We have on the show His Excellency Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi. Dr. Tariq is the Director General of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO). He leads the organisation’s efforts to grow and diversify Abu Dhabi’s economy through private sector investment. He also oversees strategic initiatives that support the emirate’s economic growth and reputation on the world stage.

One of those initiatives was to entice leading agtech companies from around the world to establish new R&D and production facilities in the emirate. In 2020, ADIO announced partnerships with AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ and Responsive Drip Irrigation to bring innovation to the area to turn sand into farmland, solve complex global agriculture challenges and expand the profile of local food producers. ADIO is investing $100 million in those four companies to build facilities in Abu Dhabi, each tasked with solving regional and global challenges.

They are also partnering with three AgTech companies, US-based Nanoracks, India’s FreshToHome and Pure Harvest to develop ‘land, sea & space’ AgTech projects in Abu Dhabi, offering $41.3m in incentives to the innovative companies to develop next generation agriculture solutions to support food production in arid and desert climates.

In this episode, we talk about these initiatives from a high level, and how Dr. Tariq is looking at bringing ag innovation into the region to create a more food secure environment. His Excellency holds a PhD in Economics from the Imperial College London, and graduate degrees from Columbia University and London Business School.  

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Apr 28, 2021

Check out the SWAT Agronomy Podcast on any podcast platform!

 Please participate in our listener survey to help us focus the direction of the show:  https://airtable.com/shrCB33GWIUCIxVRU 

Over the past decade, one of the areas agriculture has changed significantly is in the number of available digital tools that can be used on the farm. On the surface this is a great thing, but if - and only if - these tools are easy to use and produce actionable results. And even then, a farmer is only going to use so many tools even if they are all great. 

Jim Ethington has been thinking about these issues for over a decade. He started at The Climate Corp in 2008, when it was still known as WeatherBill and was not yet exclusively an ag-focused company. He stayed with the company for a decade, through many milestones including the acquisition by Monsanto and the integration of the 640 drive that we featured in episode 241 with Craig Rupp. He left the company in 2018 as VP of Product to take a job as the CEO of Arable, which is where he still works today. 

Arable offers systems that are easy to install on any farm to enable data-driven decisions using Measurements that Matter. With real-time, continuous visibility and predictive analytics of over 40 metrics, their flagship product, the Arable Mark is a straightforward and versatile tool that can be adapted to any field's demands, and can satisfy any producer's need to know even the most granular tidbit of information about their harvest. 

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Apr 21, 2021

Today’s episode is brought to you by FieldAgent by Sentera.

One key piece of the agtech conversation that often gets overlooked is the most likely customer for a lot of digital tools may not actually be a farmer. For many of them, an advisor to that farmer may be the one actually performing that task, and may have the biggest vested interest in adopting cutting-edge technologies. 

We’re calling this little mini-series “The Tech-Enabled Advisor.” We will profile some of the farmers’ advisers: agronomists, ag retailers, consultants, and other local professionals that farmers rely on for guidance, advice, and implementation. To help me identify the right tech-savvy advisors for these episodes, and to make sure we hear from different types of guests, I’ve asked various agtech companies to partner with me on these episodes.  The first one to say yes, was the sponsor of today’s episode: FieldAgent by Sentera. FieldAgent enables agronomic advisors to make more timely decisions by taking data they’re already using on a daily basis – such as satellite, weather, equipment, soil, and field operations and integrate it with drone data and their machine learning capabilities.

In this episode, we are joined by Matt Larson, Agronomy Sales Manager for CHS in Holdredge, Nebraska. CHS is a leading global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States. Matt and his team of 6 utilize technology like FieldAgent alongside Climate FieldView and CHS’s Agellum platform to service their farmer customers.

 

“The biggest thing we need to do to separate ourselves is bring new ideas. Everybody has a fertilizer price. Everybody sells a seed of some kind or a chemical of some kind. The big thing that we need to do is separate ourselves with technology, being a big one, service, information to growers, and just being able to offer those different ideas that maybe somebody else hasn't quite caught on to yet.” - Matt Larson

 

Matt has seen the business model of agronomists and agronomy sales evolve over the last 12 years whether it's via communication methods, producer expectations or relationships with the farmers. He has found that farmers want to see more verified data before adopting new technology and a lot of that can now be shared via the new digital platforms.  

 

“Growers have all this data. They have the planting data, they have the seeding data, harvest data, their spraying, all that stuff. What do they do with it? And that's where I think it's our job to dig through the weeds and find out what's the real, what's the fake for them, what makes a difference and then bring that to them.” - Matt Larson

 

 Please participate in our listener survey to help us focus the direction of the show:  https://airtable.com/shrCB33GWIUCIxVRU 

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Matt Larson, Agronomy Sales Manager for CHS in Holdredge, Nebraska
  • Discover how Matt incorporates new technologies like FieldAgent, Climate FieldView and CHS’s Agellum platform for his customers
  • Listen to a discussion about what data matters to producers and what methods do they prefer to use to access it

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Apr 14, 2021

Please participate in our listener survey to help us focus the direction of the show: https://airtable.com/shrCB33GWIUCIxVRU

Today we get a unique global view into agtech and agribusiness. We are joined by Greg Meyers, who is the Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer of Syngenta based at their world headquarters in Switzerland. Most of you are familiar with Syngenta but you may or may not know they are the largest crop protection company in the world and the third largest seed company in the world. They also provide digital ag platforms to 125 million acres of global crop production. 

Greg offers his perspective as someone with a front row seat to the global digitization of agriculture. We talk about the agtech customer in various countries, Syngenta’s acquisition strategy, their role in both digital ag and soil health, and some interesting ideas worth pondering about the future of agriculture. 

“The reality of it is that a lot of the growers really have a very specific set of things they're trying to accomplish. And obviously the nature of the work is there's a really compressed window in which those activities have to happen. So if you're trying to create these solutions and they don't fit within that window of work, they really have a hard time finding a fit.” - Greg Meyers

Greg comments that he sees a lot of agtech startups with a really innovative piece of technology that doesn’t answer a direct problem the farmer needs solved. “It’s almost like a solution looking for a problem...So what we’re trying to do is to take our innovation experience in chemistry and biology and marry it to agronomy and computer science,” explains Greg. Finding market fit without incorporating these many different aspects of farming within a specific problem and pain point can lead to a lack of interest by the producer. For example, predictive models in Brazil help solve scouting issues for Asian Soybean Rust while in the “mega farms” of Eastern Europe maximizing fuel efficiency and coordinating the use of different farm equipment is a significant advantage. Syngenta has strategically chosen partners and acquisitions to support specific pain points identified by producers in their specific region. 

“We focused on companies that have already had traction. They had a great market fit. They already had customers and we acquired them not because of the revenue they were getting, but because they really understood the local market well and they had good customer relationships. They were adding value to the grower. They're adding value to the growers advisor….and so we've really built our software platform around trying to be able to help the whole ecosystem that helps farmers.” - Greg Meyers

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Greg Meyers, who is the Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer of Syngenta
  • Explore the agtech industry from a high level perspective and why Greg thinks some technologies are more successful than others in getting adopted
  • Discover the goals of Syngenta’s acquisitions and how they choose partners going forward
  • Learn about the future of Syngenta and where their focus is for the future

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Apr 7, 2021

Please participate in our listener survey to help us focus the direction of the show: https://airtable.com/shrCB33GWIUCIxVRU 

E-commerce is nothing new. I think all of us have probably bought more online than ever this past year. But the company we’re featuring today, Pinduoduo, has taken this to a whole other level by gamifying e-commerce and making it a social experience. A big part of their strategy is selling agricultural products online. One of the biggest drivers changing the future of agriculture is consumer preferences, what they buy and how they buy it. Today we explore some pretty incredible insights into how this is changing in China. 

We have on the show Xin Yi Lim, who is the executive director of Sustainability and Agricultural Impact at Pinduoduo. The platform, which has been described as “where Costco meets Disney”, started in 2015 and has grown to over 700 million active users in China. Before joining Pinduoduo in 2018, Xin Yi worked for SIngapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC, both in its Singapore and New York offices as a technology and media analyst. 

“Really what we are trying to provide is a way for producers or merchants to sell a larger volume of products in a shorter period of time. And in so doing, they can reap the benefits of economies of scale and how we do that is through this notion of a team purchase. So it starts off by the realization that for a lot of people, what you actually want to buy for things like say food or fresh produce can be influenced by those around you.” - Xin Yi Lim

 

She highlights that this opportunity gives producers “a lot more visibility” to their consumers by allowing customers to share their interests and purchases. Pinduoduo introduced team purchase to consumers with discounted products and has expanded to including a gaming component. Participants can play a game that results in free or discounted produce. This allows Pinduoduo to not only get more engagement from their users but also to see which participants are most influential to other users. In fact 90% of their revenue comes from merchant advertising targeting likely consumers. 

 

“As we continue to grow, I think it's really also gone beyond just a team purchase. It's also encouraging more and more interactions by the users with the platform. So like what I mentioned earlier, that social graph of how you interact with your friends, how you influence them and they influence you. That helps us to refine our idea of what it is that you're interested in and give you the right recommendations.” - Xin Yi Lim

 

Pinduoduo has expanded beyond grocery items and also supplies agricultural inputs among other products. Xin Yi Lim comments that she has seen value and influence for agricultural producers from live streaming efforts by scientists, agronomists and other fellow producers suggesting the ongoing expansion of the scope of potential influence. 

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Xin Yi Lim, who is the executive director of Sustainability and Agricultural Impact at Pinduoduo
  • Explore this e-commerce platform that is influencing consumer trends and allowing producers to distribute their product at a higher volume
  • Learn about the wide array of products Pinduoduo provides to its customers and the techniques they use to entice consumers to buy on their platform

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Mar 31, 2021

Thanks to the Field Work podcast for sponsoring this episode. Visit www.FieldWork.org to learn more. 

Interest in local and regional food systems has been trending upward for a long time. The pandemic has only accelerated consumer interest in having strong relationships with where they buy their food. But what sounds easy on the outside: farmer produces food and consumer buys it - is much more complicated in practice. First of all, there aren’t enough local/regional slaughterhouses for livestock producers to scale their direct-to-consumer operations because of low margins, regulations, and labor. Today’s episode tells the story of how Adam Parks built a local meat business, and how he is part of a group that has formed a cooperative to solve this problem of local meat processing. Adam is the founder of Victorian Farmstead Meat Company located in Sebastopol, California. They have been selling local meat in the area since 2010 at farmers markets, through a CSA (community supported agriculture), and more recently through home delivery. 

 

“I developed a network of six to eight local ranches that raised for me… And we set about taking fresh meat to the farmer's market. That was kind of what made us unique was that we were the first local people to really bring fresh meat to the farmer's market.” - Adam Parks

 

Adam’s collaboration with local producers allowed him to take advantage of a trend he noticed after the 2008 recession involving the consumer preference for a more controlled, less extravagant splurge with high quality food items. Adam also created a newsletter that has helped to build a relationship and trust with customers developed at farmers markets. 

 

“Once we gain that trust, we protect it like gold. Our long-time customers will tell you that they don't worry about what they buy from us. They know that it's as good a product in terms of how it's raised and how it's processed as they can find. And so they just get what we have available.” - Adam Parks

 

Adam remarks that having control over the meat processing aspect of his operation became more attractive as his business continued to expand. He started a 120 square foot butcher shop and is hoping to expand to a much larger standalone facility very soon. Slaughter and USDA sanctioned facilities tend to be hours away which is another part of the business he hopes to make more efficient and sustainable. Adam is one of 16 founding members of the Bay Area Ranchers Cooperative (also known as BAR-C), which is a coop of local producers who are pooling resources to build a mobile USDA-inspected meat processing facility in the area. They hope to be in production this May. 

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Adam Parks, the founder of Victorian Farmstead Meat Company located in Sebastopol, California
  • Explore how Adam grew Victorian Farmstead Meat Company through local farmers markets and collaborations with producers
  • Discover Bay Area Ranchers Cooperative (also known as BAR-C), which is a coop of local producers developing a semi-permanent USDA sanctioned slaughter facility

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Mar 29, 2021

The reason for today’s special episode is The Farm Workforce Modernization Act that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is now moving on to the Senate. This legislation is an effort to make progress on the mess that is U.S. ag labor policy. Shay Myers, a farmer who was featured on this show back in episode 178, called me to talk about the importance of this bill to U.S. farmers and their employees. In fact, over 300 agricultural organizations supported the bill. Ag labor reform like this has been attempted for decades, but has never been passed, mostly due to politics. 

First, what does this bill do? Put simply, it improves the process for H-2A workers, which is the name of the visa for temporary agricultural workers. It also makes it mandatory that agricultural employers e-verify employees legal work status for employment. Finally, and perhaps most controversially, it establishes a program for agricultural workers and their families who are already in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment if they meet certain requirements. 

Mar 24, 2021

Thanks to the FieldWork podcast for sponsoring this episode. Visit www.FieldWork.org to learn more. 

 

This episode is a good follow up to Episode 250 about one example of how agtech is helping smallholder farmers in developing countries. We are again talking about the potential for agtech in developing markets in this episode, but this time from a different perspective. My guest Igor Buchatskiy sees real opportunities in very large integrated agricultural operations. Whereas last week we focused on smallholder farmers, this episode is about the very large, sophisticated operations that are hungry for technology and innovation in the developing world. 

Igor is a mechanical engineer by training, but after getting his MBA at the University of Chicago, he started a career in management consulting. That led to a job with a family office back in his home country of Ukraine. It was in that role that he discovered his love and fascination for agriculture in 2007. Since that time, he’s worked all over the world with agricultural operations and agtech startups. He’s based in Boston, but you never know where in the world he is going to be. In fact, at the time of this interview he was working on a project in Saudi Arabia. 

 

“(Working in agriculture) was a revelation. Seriously, I thought wow, that's what I should have been doing for the last 10 years instead of mechanical engineering and management consulting because it was just an amazing experience. So I dove head in into that business and we started growing it, bringing new technology, new breed, new genetics, et cetera, et cetera.” - Igor Buchatskiy

 

Igor shares that he was able to be a part of the “Ukranianian Golden Rush” which involved former Soviet union republics recovering from the collective farm system that was no longer in place. The economics and margins were very favorable in the agricultural sector that had previously flown under the radar of other investors. He observed the consolidation of many small farms into large dominant players in the industry. 

 

“What gets me excited is the fact that there are so many bright ideas, you know out of the box ideas that are happening now. And we are at the point in time where the technologies are becoming more accessible, more affordable, and we're getting to the sort of a scale at which all these technologies and all these ideas are starting to converge.” - Igor Buchatskiy

 

Igor shares that in Ukraine and Russia he is observing a lot of large vertically integrated operations. By virtue of the size and employment support of these companies, they are able to use, take advantage of and capitalize on new agriculture technologies where a small benefit in margin can create major revenue on that scale. This allows for large gains in agricultural technology companies by engaging with some of these major players. 

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Igor Buchatskiy an entrepreneur, ag startup mentor, and board advisor.
  • Discover Igor’s journey into agriculture and the potential he saw in the industry
  • Learn about the agriculture industry in the Ukraine and Russia and the trend towards large vertically integrated operations

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Mar 17, 2021

Thanks to the FieldWork podcast for sponsoring this episode. Visit www.FieldWork.org to learn more. 

We talk a lot about the types of technologies that are geared towards larger operations, but what’s out there that has the potential to really improve the lives of small farmers, especially of those in developing countries. We have a really interesting example of one of these innovations in this episode. Weather Risk Management Services is an India-based company that collects data to help producers manage their risks. The company started off as offering just crop insurance products, which is still a big part of their business, but they’ve also expanded into products that incentivize and reward farmers for using risk management strategies. 

In other words, a farmer pays a premium and agrees to certain farming practices. In return they are provided a guaranteed yield, and paid if their yield drops below that threshold. This helps take away the risk of adopting new practices. Weather Risk Management Services has worked with over 30,000 farmers in India already, and hopes to grow to one million farmers in the next five years. Founder Sonu Agrawal joins us to share the process, goals and impacts of the company.

“So in many developing countries … not only in India, but several countries in Asia and Africa, there is very low or no access to crop insurance contracts. And since there is no crop insurance, access to finance is also a big challenge because banks do not lend money to small farmers. The banks are not covered against losses due to adverse weather events. So there is a complete lack of access to crop insurance.” Sonu Agrawal

Sonu shares that Weather Risk Management Services provides access to affordable crop insurance that also provides incentives to “the farmer to use better risk management practices.” These practices include things like using drought resistant seeds, applying additional nutrition to the crops or arranging irrigation to their fields. Satellite data helps to monitor these additional practices to make sure the crop is insured appropriately. Farmers then either benefit by way of a reduced premium or increased coverage based on a projected yield.

“Before we enter a village, a lot of analysis is done…..So we analyze and then identify the more important risks or the factors which have resulted in sub optimized yield. And then the whole production process, what we call the package of practices, is designed in such a way so that we can improve the yields gradually.” - Sonu Agrawal

Farmers are offered smaller contracts when they start with Weather Risk Management Services. This is done to overcome any trust concerns and allow producers to take advantage of the gradual increased yield at their desired pace. There is a lot of learning done by the farmers and the company to assess what yields can be expected and what measures can be taken for improvement in these initial smaller contracts. Sonu shares that in the first year of collaboration with a farmer they expect a 5-7% increase in yield, followed by 10-12% in the second year and up to 15-20% in the third year. 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Sonu Agrawal the founder of Weather Risk Management Services
  • Discover what their company offers small farmers in rural areas of India where crop insurance and financing access is limited
  • Explore the innovative methods used to incentivize increased yield production practices

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Mar 10, 2021

Thanks to the FieldWork podcast for sponsoring this episode. Visit www.FieldWork.org to learn more. 

David Doll is the General Manager of Rota Unica Agriculture based in Portugal. He grew up on a direct-to-consumer apple and peach orchard in southern Indiana, then got a master’s degree in plant pathology from UC Davis. After a decade as a farm advisor for the University of California focused on tree nuts, he took on his current role of moving to Portugal to manage a large-scale diversified tree crop operation there. On top of all of that, he writes what I think is probably the most in-depth blog dedicated to just one crop that I’ve ever seen at The Almond Doctor. I’ve really appreciated interacting with David online and in the FoA community. I think you’re going to really enjoy his perspective here today. 

 

“I think everyone would say the same thing, but you have to be able to be willing to know what your shortfalls are, be honest with yourself and then throw in the extra effort in order to pick yourself up. I'll be honest, I never thought I would ever be negotiating a loan that's probably more money than I'll ever earn in my life.

But you know, you walk in, you do it and you learn a few things along the way and move on.” - David Doll

 

David shares his experience in going from managing an operation with a $250,000 annual budget to his current operation with more than a $80 million budget. His employer felt that he could be taught the finances overtime but needed to come prepared with the horticulture and orchard experience to support their endeavors. David dove in and has learned and experienced a lot since being there. 

 

“So the investment group is not a Portuguese company. It's actually an American company. And their thesis is food is a way to move water in a commodity that people want. That's it. It’s such a simple statement but it's right on the spot.” - David Doll

 

“We are taking a resource from where we have it and where it may be plentiful at a given time and producing something with it and then moving that to an area that one can’t produce that crop or doesn’t have the resources to produce that crop.” David elaborates by discussing the value of water based on whether it is from a renewable or finite resource. This is definitely a different perspective than the more short-sighted opinion of not viewing water as a significant valuable commodity. David’s blog explores some of these concepts and many other management techniques with all things almonds. “It’s kind of a niche blog but I enjoy it.”

 

“It's kind of this technical writing with a translational twist is what I call it. So I'm always writing about a technical subject, but I'm using that and translating that to help people understand my thought process of how I approach that problem.” - David Doll

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet David Doll the General Manager of Rota Unica Agriculture based in Portugal and author of www.TheAlmondDoctor.com
  • Discover the journey David Doll has taken to become a major almond producer in Portugal
  • Explore an international perspective for the future of agriculture and the unique challenges faced by our counterparts in different parts of the world
  • Learn what inspired “The Almond Doctor” blog and the benefits it offers

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Mar 3, 2021

We can all agree that sustainability that comes at the expense of productivity and efficiency is not truly sustainable at all. We are going to need to meld together what’s best for the productivity and profitability of growers with the ecosystem services they can provide. 

Just recently agtech company FluroSat announced that they acquired another agtech company, Dagan, and the combined company was re-branded to a new name: Regrow. You might remember FluroSat founder Anastasia Volkova from her first appearance on this podcast back in episode 175. She joins us again today, now as CEO of Regrow, along with Dagan co-founder and now Regrow Chief Strategy Officer Bill Salas. Both of them are accomplished scientists as well as entrepreneurs. We have a great conversation here about why this merger made sense, what differentiates their carbon model, called DNDC, from other ways to model carbon sequestration, and how their newly combined and rebranded company will help growers maximize productivity, profitability, and sustainability. 

 

“DNDC’s approach is much more first principles on how management influences soil environment, which in turn influences which microbes are more active and drives the outcomes in terms of soil carbon turnover and greenhouse gas emissions.” -Bill Salas

 

“Dagan was interested in how to create the value proposition for soil health at scale.” They went about this by achieving satellite monitoring to monitor large acreages. The network that Dagan had developed between researchers, NGO’s such as the Nature Conservancy, consumer packaged food companies and carbon markets was extensive but lacked a direct connection to producers themselves. Bill shares that they had focused on creating data for multiple partners and by merging with FluroSat they were able to pair that mission with an easy-to-use platform. 

 

“We saw that by adding sustainability monitoring to agronomy and marrying our crop model with the DNDC soil model, we would ... understand where it would be profitable to start adopting these practices and it could form the decision support tool that our customers are seeking as well as connect players across the supply chain.” -Anastasia Volkova

 

Anastasia highlights that one of her goals has always been to facilitate the decision making of producers to incorporate sustainability into their operations. Making the data acquisition process easy and accessible allows producers to capitalize on any sustainable efforts they are making. While carbon sequestration is a great benefit of sustainable practices, nitrogen management, greenhouse gas emissions and better biodiversity are also common sequelae and part of the Regrow mindset. 

 

“We want to make sure that agriculture gets a chance to get it right, scientifically, transparently, and bring this sustainability excitement into an operationalizable business model that scales without taking too many shortcuts on the quality and transparency.” -Anastasia Volkova



Checkout the FieldWork Podcast as well on any podcast platform or at www.FieldWork.org.

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Feb 24, 2021

The question of “what are the real problems in agriculture that need to be solved?” is one we ask often here on this show. If you ask that to a dozen people, you’ll probably get about 20 different answers. But herbicide resistance is one that hits home for many. As you’re about to hear, the tools we’ve been using for decades are becoming less and less effective, and the pipeline for new active ingredients has been empty for a long time. Every year more and more weeds show signs of resistance - which is not a trend that can continue. 

Today’s guests are the co-founders and co-CEOs of Israel-based WeedOut, a biological herbicide company which uses proprietary pollen to sterilize weeds like Palmer Amaranth, otherwise known as pigweed. Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili and Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik are both accomplished scientists who have already been a part of one successful exit: they worked at Rosetta Green which was purchased by Monsanto in 2013. WeedOUT is a portfolio company of Fulcrum Global Capital, who partnered with me on this episode.

 

“As we continued to focus on (weed resistance) we understood that this a very significant problem not only in the US but also in Europe, also in China, Australia, South American and all over the world. Out of the 26 modes of action of herbicides 23 have already reported resistance.” -Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik

 

“In order to slow down this process of resistant development, it’s very important to combine new tactics.” WeedOut has produced a biological pollen that works with the weeds biology to obstruct their reproductive cycle. This is a new mechanism of action that the weeds will not have developed any resistance to. It will also be difficult for weeds to create resistance because they will not be capable of producing more generations that could evolve and adapt. “We are actually reducing significantly the seed bank year after year.” Their main focus so far has been to target Palmer Amaranth as it is a weed of significant resistance and wide dissemination. They do not plan to replace chemical herbicide but rather increase its efficacy by not solely relying on it. 

 

“By blocking resistance using our own methods, then you can extend the lifetime of the chemicals that are currently used instead of switching to more toxic chemicals...So actually by blocking resistance, we are preserving the entire set of products that are available today making them efficient for many more years.” -Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili

 

“Our strategy is first to fit our technology to the standard tools that all farmers have. And with the second layer we will continue and explore this opportunity to spray it using drones.” As well as developing different methods of delivery they hope to expand to different weeds. Weeds most susceptible to this technology would reproduce via cross or wind pollination. WeedOut has found success in finding investors that will allow continued expansion and development with a hopeful launch in 2023.

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili and Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik, co-CEOs of WeedOut
  • Explore the concern regarding herbicide resistance and the lack of progress being made in that space
  • Learn about the biological solution WeedOut has proven and will be providing to producers globally to combat herbicide resistance of Palmer Amaranth

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

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