News Links Around the World: October Archives

Compiled 13/10/2020

CEA startup AppHarvest to go public, expects $475m funding at $1bn valuation


Topic: CEA startup APPHarvest plans to go public 

AppHarvest, a US-controlled environment agriculture (CEA) startup, announced its merge with NASDAQ-listed special purpose acquisition company Novus Capital, allowing it to go public. Estimated to bring in $475 million in gross proceedings, including a $375 million private investment in public equity transactions from existing and new investors like Inclusive Capital and Novus, the deal values the company at $1 billion. Novus chairman Bob Laikin said in a statement: “AppHarvest is a unique and compelling investment opportunity that is redefining American agriculture by improving access for all to fresh non-GMO produce, growing more with fewer resources, and creating an agtech hub from within Appalachia.” AppHarvest is set to launch what it claims to be the world’s largest greenhouse in a 2.76 million square foot facility in Morehand, Kentucky later in 2020. Reportedly, the system it uses reduces water usage by 90% as opposed to traditional open-field agriculture. In the future, AppHarvest will focus on bringing its beefsteak and on-the-vine tomatoes to market, with the first harvest at its Morehead facility expected for early 2021. The startup hopes to eventually expand into bell peppers, berries, cucumbers, and leafy greens.


Russia gets closer to new wheat harvest record thanks to surging grain yields


Topic: Surging grain yields moves Russia closer to new wheat harvest record

According to the latest data from the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, Russia has boosted grain yields by around six percent year-on-year, harvesting 124 million tonnes of grain. As of 2 October, Russian farmers have cultivated over 90 percent of planted lands, with crop yield at 28.6 centner per hectare—a not insignificant jump from the 26.9 centner per hectare over the same period last year. Russian wheat harvest rose to 85.9 million tonnes, nearly matching the 2017 record of 86 million tonnes. This massive grain harvest means Russia is expected to retain its leadership in the global wheat market in the coming years. Pakistan is projected to become another major importer of Russian wheat this year ever since the country’s government announced on 2 October that it will ship 180,000 million tonnes of Russian wheat without taxes and duties. 


‘Structural failure’ downs Vancouver terminal grain bin


Topic: Vancouver terminal grain bin down after “structural failure”

On 11 September, the collapse of a new commercial-scale grain bin at Fibreco’s Vancouver port terminal is undergoing investigation. On 12 September, Fibreco Export Inc., a wood fibre exporter, confirmed that there were no injuries and stated that it was “working with various government organizations to investigate the cause and concurrently developing a plan to safely resume operations as soon as possible.” Grain handling and storage equipment manufacturer Ag Growth International (AGI) is also investigating the cause of the collapse, reporting that it had built the bin and fourteen others at the site. The collapsed bin was part of a new bin line released by AGI that saw another “failure” in May last year at a different site. In response to the May 2019 incident, AGI reported that “it undertook an extensive engineering re-evaluation of the product prior to inclusion in two additional applications.” In a separate statement, AGi announced that it would investigate all bins in the product line as part of its standard protocol.


Fibreco silo collapse under investigation


Topic: Fibreco silo collapse under investigation

A brand new, 12-storey tall grain storage bin at Fibreco’s McKeen Avenue export terminal collapsed due to a structural failure during loading on 11 September around 2:15 PM. District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services members set up a “collapse zone” around the silo as structural engineers determined what the next steps should be. In 2017, Fibreco announced its plans to redevelop the McKeen Avenue site and to build all new silos and elevators for exporting grain. Fibreco’s site contains 15 silos similar to the collapsed silo built by Ag Growth International, which was hired to build 20 more silos for another customer. As of Tuesday 15 September, Ag Growth International stock fell more than nine percent. 


Evacuation lifted after elevator fire


Topic: Evacuation lifted after Marengo elevator fire

On the night of 8 October, a large grain elevator in the western Saskatchewan village of Marengo was destroyed by fire. A state of emergency was declared for the surrounding Rural Municipality of Milton No. 292 and remained in effect until noon of 9 October, with the evacuation order given to Marengo residents and ten homes in the RM lifted that morning. The cause of the fire remained unknown and there were no reports of injuries to employees, firefighters, or residents.


People allowed back into homes in western Sask. village after grain elevator fire forced evacuation


Topic: Evacuation order lifted after grain elevator fire in western Saskatoon

An evacuation order was released to the village of Marengo and a state of emergency announced for the rural municipality of Milton following a large fire at a grain elevator in Marengo on 8 October. Electricity had been cut to the village but was restored by SaskPower the next morning. No injuries were reported and many residents found their own accommodation, although Red Cross assistance was provided for those who asked while the evacuation order was in place. There was no estimate of the amount of property damage or what was damaged.


Argentina first nation to OK drought-resistant GMO wheat, farm industry balks


Topic: Argentina first nation to approve drought-resistant GMO wheat

On Friday 9 October, Argentina was met with criticism by its export agriculture industry in response to the country becoming the first in the world to approve the use of drought-resistant genetically modified wheat. Bioceres’ BIO.BA HB4 wheat tolerates glufosinate sodium and is resistant to drought, which Bioceres argues can help boost yields during dry years. However, the Argentine government states that the product cannot be sold until Brazil, Argentina’s biggest wheat buyer, approves its importation. Brazil has not commented on the prospect of it approving the purchase of HB4 wheat. Several Argentine farm groups criticised the government’s approval of HB4 wheat, citing concerns that it could create a stigma for exporters. As no other countries have approved the importation of GMO wheat, Argentine farmers have little to no incentive to plant it, particularly given that environmental groups have warned that not enough is known about GMO crops treated with weed killers like glufosinate sodium for them to be safely consumed. The HB4 wheat variety was developed by Trigall Genetics.