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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Topic: US wheat inspections for China nearly triple
In the second week of October up to 8 October, the US Department of Agriculture recorded that US wheat inspections for China reached 182,382 megatonnes, up 179 percent on the week and the third highest weekly level in 2020-2021. As a result, China’s total US wheat imports since the 2020-2021 marketing season (beginning in June) reached 1.2 million megatonnes—a change from the same period last year, where China did not import any wheat from the US. Analysts show that China is committed to fulfilling its end of the Phase 1 deal with a buying spree of US agricultural products, including wheat, sorghum, and corn. In the week up to 8 October, total US wheat inspections sank 24.3 percent on the week to 514,086 megatonnes due to major importers like Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam taking a step back. Total wheat inspected for exports reached 10.4 million megatonnes from the start of the 2020-2021 marketing year until 8 October, pushing it up by 9.9 percent year on year. The USDA anticipates the US to export 26.5 million megatonnes of wheat in the 2020-2021 season.
Topic: Digitised supply chains can help multiply Africa’s crop yields
Financial Times writer Marianne Schoemaker examines how technology can enable African farmers to “organise themselves in a different fashion, integrate value chains to their benefit and develop their business.” Schoemaker calls for more inclusive agri value chains as they grow increasingly digitised, which would require careful data design that specifically prioritises smallholders’ interests given that the World Bank and FAO estimate that 95 percent of the world’s farmers can be classified as smallholders. Smallholders produce 45 percent of the world’s food, with 70 percent coming from sub-Saharan Africa, south and east Asia, and Latin America. Despite the dire circumstances small farmers in Africa find themselves in—facing a combination of lack of basic services and logistics, price fluctuations, and climate change—they nevertheless produce a marketable surplus. Additionally, with growing consumer awareness of where their food comes from, Schoemaker emphasises that “a digitised value chain will benefit all stakeholders in creating greater transparency about where our food comes from, while helping primary producers to access much-needed resources including finance, inputs and fair prices.” Schoemaker adds that in order to achieve better and sustainable yields, stakeholders in agritech and fintech should create a digital ecosystem that is easy to use and can deliver greater transparency, farmer insights, and access to finance.
Topic: Eligible producers receive 100 percent compensation for unpaid deliveries to ILTA Grain Inc
Eligible producers who were not paid for grain delivered to ILTA Grain Incorporated will be fully compensated through the Canadian Grain Commission’s Safeguards for Grain Farmers Program. In July 2019 ILTA Grain Inc. was put under creditor protection with the company defaulting on amounts owed to grain farmers for unpaid deliveries. 271 individual claims from producers were subsequently assessed by the Canadian Grain Commission, with 222 claims deemed eligible for over $11 million in compensation.
Topic: First seven weeks of 2020-2021 marketing year see strongest soybean exports in history
The first week of the 2020-2021 marketing year saw the strongest soybean exports in history following years of disruption to US soybean exports due to the US-China trade war. By 15 October, the US exported 11.4 million tonnes of soybeans, an 85.3 percent jump from the first seven weeks of the previous marketing year and a 19.4 percent jump from the 2017-2018 marketing year. The jump is the result of the return fo Chinese buyers in the US market, with 77.9 percent of the 2.5 million tonnes of exported US soybeans going to China. Chinese soybean imports have risen by 15.5 percent in the first nine months of this year while Brazilian soybean exports have risen by 30.5 percent so far this year, with soybean exports from Brazil to China having risen by 25.9 percent this year compared to the first three quarters of 2019.