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  • AgTech Digest: Seederal Bags Funding, Bayer's New Licensing Deal, xFarm Technologies Deal & More!

AgTech Digest: Seederal Bags Funding, Bayer's New Licensing Deal, xFarm Technologies Deal & More!

Discover this week's development in the world of AgTech!

Good morning readers! This week, we have some exciting updates from the world of AgTech. Mars and Unreasonable Group have launched the Unreasonable Food program, which aims to make a positive impact across the food value chain. Italy has approved Vestaron's peptide-based bioinsecticide for emergency use against the tomato leafminer.

We also cover Pivot Bio's N-OVATOR program which successfully reduced around 315,000 metric tons of CO2e in the first two years. Bayer Crop Science has secured exclusive licensing rights to a new biological insecticide for arable crops. ClimateAi has launched the ClimateLens Monitor Yield Outlook, which provides climate-driven yield forecasts and critical insights. xFarm Technologies has acquired Greenfield Technologies from Spain and SpaceSense from France to improve its capabilities in regenerative agriculture.

Let’s dive into this week’s development!

Funding, Acquisitions & Other Investments

xFarm Technologies, which supports daily operations on 340,000 farms across four million hectares, has announced the acquisition of Spain’s Greenfield Technologies and France’s SpaceSense. This development is part of xFarm’s ongoing effort to enhance its capabilities in regenerative agriculture and geospatial AI, to reinforce its position at a pan-European level.

Matteo Vanotti, CEO of xFarm Technologies, described the strategic significance of the integrations: “Through these operations with such top players, we aim to strengthen our position in regenerative agriculture and geospatial AI, reinforcing ourselves at a pan-European level to create new value and make a comprehensive contribution to the global agri-food industry.”

Greenfield Technologies specializes in soil characterization to enhance crop management sustainability. At the same time, SpaceSense leverages satellite data and AI to provide climate intelligence services, enabling large-scale environmental monitoring and carbon tracking.

UPL Corporation Ltd. (UPL Corp), a leading provider of comprehensive and sustainable agricultural solutions, has announced the completion of its acquisition of the solo mancozeb fungicide business from Corteva Agriscience. This acquisition excludes operations in China, Japan, South Korea, the UK, Switzerland, and EU member countries. The acquisition includes the globally recognized mancozeb brand, Dithane®, which has been a cornerstone in disease management for farmers worldwide. Additionally, UPL Corp will benefit from Rainshield™ technology, which provides enhanced crop protection under wet weather conditions, further solidifying its position in the multisite fungicide market.

Christina Coen, Chief Marketing Officer at UPL Corp, highlighted the strategic importance of the acquisition: “We recognize mancozeb’s vital role not just in protecting crops, but in safeguarding global food security and transforming farmer livelihoods. This acquisition cements our leadership in the multi-fungicide market and enables us to continue adding to our ever-growing portfolio of farmer-first solutions, and expanding the use of this vital molecule for years to come.”

Vertical Harvest Farms, a pioneer in indoor farming and social inclusivity, announced the closure of $59.5 million in financing for a new hydroponic vertical farm in downtown Westbrook, Maine. This facility is poised to be a crucial part of Maine’s food system infrastructure, aligning with regional goals to increase local food production significantly.

The new facility will produce approximately 2.5 million pounds of leafy greens, herbs, and other vegetables annually, focusing on delivering fresh produce within 24 hours of harvest. This initiative is expected to drastically reduce the loss of nutritional value that occurs when produce is shipped long distances and will help decrease food waste at the retail level. Echoing its founding principles, Vertical Harvest emphasizes its dual mission to grow food and futures, particularly for people with disabilities. This project underlines the company’s commitment to creating tech-forward, inclusive employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

Nona Yehia, CEO of Vertical Harvest, expressed the company’s dedication to local and fair food production, stating, “We’re on a mission to grow food as local, fresh, and fair as possible, and ensure there’s a place at the table for everyone in the future of food.”

Seederal Raises €7.1M to Advance Electric Tractor Development for Sustainable Agriculture

In a recent strategic move, the Brittany-based industrial startup Seederal announced a successful €7.1 million funding round led by Supernova Invest. Contributions came from Ankaa Ventures, Unilis (Groupe Unigrains), CA Morbihan Expansion, Kima Ventures, and longstanding partners such as Xplore by Épopée Gestion and Breizh Up. This financial injection will accelerate the development and commercialization of Seederal’s innovative electric tractor designed specifically for agricultural tasks.

Seederal has secured funding from Bpifrance, the Brittany Region, and Crédit Agricole Finistère to develop its electric tractor. The latest funding round will extend research and development activities and speed up recruitment processes. The tractor has a robust 160 horsepower and uses a unique chassis-battery system for optimal energy density and operational efficiency.

Antoine Venet, CEO and co-founder of Seederal emphasized the significance of the new investments and government support: “The backing from the France 2030 program, the arrival of new esteemed investors, and the continued trust of our existing backers underscore the relevance of our approach. We recently reached a milestone by proving our prototype’s capacity to handle the most demanding applications, and this funding round will help us take the next step: confirming the high autonomy of our tractors for field applications.”

Plant Science

The Italian Ministry of Health has approved the emergency use of SPEAR® LEP, Vestaron’s peptide-based bioinsecticide, to address severe outbreaks of the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta), a pest known for causing significant agricultural losses in Europe. This pest’s presence has escalated concerns about potential yield impacts, prompting the need for effective solutions like SPEAR LEP.

Juan Estupinan, interim CEO and president of Vestaron, emphasized the significance of this development: “The emergency use authorization of SPEAR LEP in Italy, following Greece, marks a crucial step in providing European farmers with new tools to manage pest resistance and meet consumer demands for sustainably produced food.” He added, “Our peptide-based bioinsecticides are setting new standards in crop protection, combining high effectiveness with environmental safety.”

Bayer’s Crop Science Division has recently announced a strategic partnership with AlphaBio Control, securing exclusive licensing rights to a new biological insecticide targeted at arable crops like oilseed rape and cereals. Slated for a potential 2028 launch, this development marks a significant addition to Bayer’s portfolio of sustainable crop solutions.

Benoit Hartmann, Head of Biologics at Bayer, highlighted the urgent need for innovative agricultural tools: “Farmers need innovative new solutions as they seek to continue to feed a growing population, overcome the impacts of climate change, and meet enhanced safety and sustainability standards,” Hartmann explained. He further noted that, “Biocontrols are a perfect fit to our approach to scaling regenerative agriculture, and we’re excited to work to bring a new biological crop protection option to farmers that can be used for arable crops.”

New Products

DJI Launches New Agras T50 and T25 Drones

During their international launch, DJI, a global leader in civilian drones and creative camera technology, introduced two new additions to their Agras line of drones, the Agras T50 and Agras T25. These drones represent a significant step forward in the field of precision agriculture. The Agras T50 is designed for stability and efficiency, sporting a coaxial dual-rotor system and 54-inch propellers. It can carry 40kg for spraying or 50kg for spreading applications, covering up to 50 acres per hour. Its dual atomization spraying system can be adjusted to accommodate various agricultural needs, making it highly versatile for field and orchard use.

The T25 packs the advanced technology of the T50 into a more compact and portable form, making it ideal for smaller agricultural operations. It supports 20kg for spraying or 25kg for spreading, incorporating features like multidirectional obstacle avoidance and Terrain Following for precise applications.

Yuan Zhang, Head of Global Sales at DJI Agriculture, emphasized the impact of their technology, stating, “As a global leader in agriculture technology, we aim to push precision agriculture forward with the latest DJI Agras drones. Our crop protection solutions allow family farmers and large-scale growers to improve yields and reduce chemical usage, effectively cutting costs while minimizing environmental impact.”

ClimateAi, a pioneer in climate resilience through advanced machine learning, has publicly launched its latest product, ClimateLens Monitor Yield Outlook. This new offering delivers precise, climate-driven yield forecasts for key commodity crops such as corn, potato, canola, oats, hops, soybeans, sorghum, wheat, and barley. It also provides critical insights into the climate variables contributing to yield variability.

Himanshu Gupta, CEO of ClimateAi, emphasized the increasing necessity of such technologies: “We continue to see extreme weather, from heat and droughts to excessive moisture, wreak havoc on our global food supply. This volatility will only increase year over year, so both businesses and governments must understand the impact on production, imports, exports, and food prices with enough time to react.”

Financial Results, Accelerator & Milestone

In the first quarter of 2024, ADAMA Ltd. reported a downturn in financial performance, with revenues decreasing to $1,057 million from $1,259 million in Q1 2023. This 16% decline was attributed to both a reduction in prices and volumes, indicative of the broader market pressures.

The gross profit fell to $256 million from $310 million in the prior year. However, the gross margin percentage saw a slight increase due to enhanced sales of higher-margin products. Operating income plummeted by 45% to $51 million, and the company recorded a net loss of $32 million, a stark contrast to the $12 million net income in Q1 2023.

Steve Hawkins, President and CEO of ADAMA, commented on the company’s strategic initiatives: “We are implementing a cross-company transformation plan focused on improving our business quality and positioning ADAMA as a leader in the Value Innovation customer segment. Despite the current sluggish market conditions, we have managed to enhance our gross margin and cash flow.”

Mars and Unreasonable Group have announced the first cohort of the Unreasonable Food program. The program selects fifteen purpose-driven ventures to scale impact across the food value chain. Ventures were evaluated based on innovative solutions, potential for impact and scalability, and alignment with the program's four pillars.

Daniel Epstein, CEO of Unreasonable Group, expressed enthusiasm about the ventures’ potential, stating, “Their innovative solutions and commitment to creating a more regenerative, inclusive, and equitable future of food align perfectly with our mission. We look forward to supporting their growth and connecting them with Mars to drive lasting mutual impact and value.”

Amanda Davies, Chief R&D, Procurement and Sustainability Officer for Mars Snacking, also highlighted the alignment with Mars’ sustainability goals, “We’re thrilled to deliver on our mission through Unreasonable Food in support of innovative ventures that have the potential to transform our food systems.”

Pivot Bio, renowned for its sustainable agricultural solutions, today reported substantial environmental savings achieved through its N-OVATOR program, initiated to enhance nitrogen management practices among growers. Over the first two years, the program has effectively reduced around 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)—this reduction mirrors the annual energy use of a city the size of Berkeley, CA, home to over 115,000 residents.

Chris Abbott, CEO of Pivot Bio, emphasized the tangible impacts of these practices: “The outcomes we’re seeing from the N-OVATOR program are not just theoretical but are measurable and significant. Our growers are not only improving their crop performance but are also making notable contributions to environmental protection.”

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