Regulation Conundrum 🤔

A new bill that could change the agriculture drone industry in the US, Hydrosat scheduled satellite launch, Solynta's partnership & more!

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Good morning, readers!

Exciting things are happening in agricultural technology! There's much to explore this week, from plant science to new indoor farming facilities.

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Chinese Company DJI May Be Banned In The USA Following The Countering CCP Drones Act

Image provided by DJI Drones

What Is This Bill?

Following unanimous approval by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a new bill is progressing through Congress and could soon be presented to President Joe Biden. The legislation aims to add DJI, a prominent Chinese drone manufacturer, to a list maintained by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. Inclusion on this list would prohibit DJI’s drones from operating on U.S. communications infrastructure, effectively rendering them unusable within the country according to reports from AP. The bill has garnered wide bipartisan support, though DJI has strongly opposed the measure, citing significant implications for various sectors.

What Is The Impact On The Agriculture Industry?

The proposed legislation could have severe repercussions for the U.S. agriculture industry as reported by AgFunder News. American farmers have increasingly relied on spray drones to manage their crops, with 3.7 million acres treated by drones in 2023 across 41 states and 50 different crops. The majority of these drones are manufactured by Chinese companies, including DJI.

Now What?

The bill’s progression has sparked a debate about the balance between national security and economic impact. As it moves through Congress, stakeholders from the agriculture industry and other sectors that rely on drone technology are voicing their concerns. If the bill becomes law, it will necessitate a rapid shift in the market, potentially leading to significant economic and operational disruptions. U.S. farmers and agricultural businesses may need to seek alternative technologies or suppliers, which could drive up costs and reduce efficiency in the short term. The upcoming election is also expected to further the pressure on Chinese companies operating in the United States

Advancing Eco Agriculture Scales Up Regenerative Farming Efforts

Image provided by Advancing Eco Agriculture

Advancing Eco Agriculture Scales Up Regenerative Farming Efforts

Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA) is advancing its efforts in promoting regenerative farming, focusing on a return to more natural and sustainable agricultural practices. Dr. Laura Kavanaugh, AEA's Chief Science Officer, highlights that the company is scaling up its research and development initiatives, creating an ecosystem that integrates soil technology with plant growth.

A Natural Approach to Farming

Regenerative farming involves re-learning and implementing traditional farming methods that have proven effective over generations. "Farmers today are adopting practices reminiscent of their fathers and grandfathers," Dr. Kavanaugh explained. "Many are surprised at how well these methods work." The natural systems utilized in regenerative agriculture harness the power of nature, making the transition smoother for farmers who have previously struggled to see satisfactory results.

Expanding Horizons

Originally focused on small-scale research and development, AEA is now expanding its regenerative farming initiatives across the United States and beyond. The company is exploring opportunities in countries willing to adopt and leverage these sustainable practices. AEA's approach encompasses a wide range of crops, including commodity crops, berries, vegetables, and other plants, demonstrating the versatility of regenerative agriculture.

Benefits for Farmers and Consumers

Farmers who embrace regenerative agriculture experience numerous benefits. These include a decrease in the need for chemical inputs, increased water availability, and reduced soil erosion. Dr. Kavanaugh stated, "Farmers are the big winners here. They see a decrease in costs and an improvement in their land's health and productivity."

Consumers also benefit from regenerative farming. Crops grown using these methods are healthier and contain higher nutrient levels, leading to improved personal health. "People care about what they eat, and regenerative agriculture provides them with better food," Dr. Kavanaugh noted. She also emphasized that regenerative practices are not exclusive to farmers; anyone can adopt these methods to grow healthier food.

Evidence of Success

Data support AEA's success with regenerative farming. Throughout 2023, the company observed significant nutrient increases in Gala, Envy, and Honeycrisp apples in Washington. From May to September 2023, AEA recorded over 1200 mg ppm magnesium increase in Gala apples, over 1000 K ppm potassium increase in Envy and Gala apples, and over 1500 Ca ppm calcium increase in Honeycrisp and Gala apples. These nutrient enhancements, attributed to AEA's regenerative biological and nutritional products, improve fruit quality by enhancing taste, texture, and shelf life.

Enhancing Soil Fertility

One of the notable outcomes of AEA's regenerative practices is the improvement in soil fertility. Even on lands with decades of chemical input, regenerative methods show quick and positive results. This enhancement of soil health not only benefits current crops but also ensures the sustainability of farming practices for future generations.

By documenting and analyzing nutrient improvements, AEA aims to provide insights that boost agricultural productivity and the nutritional quality of produce. "Our goal is to create a farming ecosystem that benefits everyone—from the farmers working the land to the consumers enjoying healthier food," Dr. Kavanaugh summarized.

Hydrosat to Launch VanZyl-1 Satellite for Global High-Resolution Thermal Imaging

Image provided by Hydrosat

Hydrosat announced the upcoming launch of its first satellite, VanZyl-1, scheduled for early July on SpaceX’s Transporter-11 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This innovative satellite will feature Hydrosat’s proprietary custom imagers, designed to accelerate the delivery of high-resolution thermal imaging technology globally and provide critical data to enhance agricultural and climate models.

Addressing Global Water Stress

Pieter Fossel, co-founder and CEO of Hydrosat, emphasized the importance of reliable data in managing water utilization and sustaining agricultural productivity amid escalating threats of droughts and water scarcity.

“As the global food system faces mounting pressure, businesses and governments are increasingly seeking better data to manage risks in real-time. The launch of VanZyl-1 represents a pivotal advancement in accelerating the delivery of high-quality data that fuels climate applications, providing invaluable insights to tackle pressing environmental issues,” said Fossel.

Solynta Partner With Bayer to Advance Potato Farming in Kenya & India

Image generated by Solynta

Bayer and Solynta have announced a strategic partnership to introduce and distribute true potato seeds in Kenya and India. This collaboration marks Bayer’s first venture into the 20 million hectares global potato market. Solynta, a Dutch company specializing in hybrid potato varieties, will provide its expertise in developing resilient potato varieties suited for these markets.

Bayer’s Role and Vision

Bayer’s involvement in this partnership aligns with its commitment to sustainable agriculture. Frank Terhorst, Head of Strategy & Sustainability at Bayer’s Crop Science Division, stated, “We are excited to enter the collaboration with Solynta and to further support smallholder farmers. Seed innovation is one of our key focus areas. We expect these potato seeds to have a positive impact on local communities and on food and nutritional security in Kenya and India.”

Little Leaf Farms Expands with New Greenhouse in McAdoo, PA & Gets a $250M Credit Facility

Image provided by Little Leaf Farms

Little Leaf Farms, the leading brand of packaged lettuce sustainably grown through controlled environment agriculture (CEA), has announced a significant expansion in McAdoo, Pennsylvania. This fall, the company will open a new 10-acre greenhouse, marking its third greenhouse in the state and making its Pennsylvania campus the largest leafy greens CEA campus in North America.

How Big Is It?

The addition of the 10-acre greenhouse will significantly increase Little Leaf Farms’ capabilities, boosting its staff count in Pennsylvania to over 300. This expansion supports the company’s growth throughout the Southeast and Midwest regions, increasing its retail footprint to over 7,000 grocery stores.

Details Of The Credit Facility

To fuel this expansion, Little Leaf Farms recently closed a new credit facility with a capacity of $250 million. This facility includes term loan facilities, delayed draw facilities, and a revolving credit line. This financial milestone is a significant boost for the company’s ongoing capital expansion initiatives, helping to meet the increasing consumer demand for sustainably produced, locally grown lettuce.

AgFunder Takes Over Blue Horizon’s Growth Fund Management

AgFunder has taken over investment management of Blue Horizon’s growth fund. Based in Zürich, Blue Horizon is strategically refocusing on its core operational businesses to accelerate the global transition to a sustainable food system and has exited the investment advisory sector.

Enhanced Resources for Limited Partners

Limited Partners (LPs) in the Growth Fund will now have access to AgFunder’s extensive global network, which includes offices in Silicon Valley, London, and Singapore. This transition also ensures continuity, with a team from Blue Horizon joining. LPs will benefit from resources such as AgFunder News, comprehensive research, and GAIA.

Growth in Assets Under Management

AgFunder’s management of Blue Horizon’s growth fund increases its assets to $300 million, adding a growth-stage portfolio to its investments.

“We’re excited to start our growth-stage investing with the support of top European institutional investors,” said Michael Dean, Founding Partner at AgFunder. “This partnership allows us to extend AgFunder’s platform to more mature agrifoodtech startups, fostering innovation and scalability in the industry, and provides our European investors with access to our global network.”

Key Updates from Qair, Monarch Tractor, Nutrien, Novo Holdings, and More

Image provided by Qair Group

🇫🇷 Qair inaugurated Fragolab, an innovative pilot agrivoltaic project developed in partnership with Insolight. Located in Uchaux, Vaucluse, the 0.2-hectare Fragolab site houses 18,680 Cléry strawberry plants and produces 12.5 tonnes of strawberries annually, marketed locally.

🇩🇰 Novo Holdings and DLG Group have partnered strategically to advance sustainable agriculture and food systems. This collaboration begins with Novo Holdings acquiring 25% of Sejet Plant Breeding (Sejet), a pioneering agricultural innovation company owned by DLG Group.

🌾 Cibus, Inc. (Nasdaq: CBUS), a prominent agricultural technology firm, has announced a significant expansion of its intellectual property (IP) portfolio, securing new patents for 10 gene editing and trai’s position as a leader in agricultural innovation.

🇭🇺 Budapest-based Scoutlabs, formerly Smapp Lab, has secured an initial investment of $2 million, as first reported by Tech Funding News. This funding round saw participation from Czech-based DEPO Ventures, known for backing Flowpay and Talsec, alongside foreign investors Interactive Venture Partners (IVP), SVG Thrive, and US-based Impact Ventures.

🍇 USDA ARS and Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recently celebrated the opening of the National Grape Improvement Center at the Cornell AgriTech campus. The new center, spanning over 70,000 square feet, will house the ARS Grape Genetics Research Unit and the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit, along with supporting four key Cornell grapevine research projects.

🇩🇰 Seasony announced that it is ceasing operations. The decision comes after the company faced significant challenges in securing adequate funding to continue its innovative journey.

🤝 Verizon Business has partnered with Monarch Tractor to provide connectivity for Monarch’s autonomous tractors. This collaboration allows Monarch Tractor’s MK-V to operate seamlessly in remote locations, overcoming traditional barriers to broadband connectivity.

💰 Nutrien announced a significant commitment to sustainable agriculture by pledging $1 million over four years. This funding will support sustainable practices for rice growers across Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, and California.

🚜 CNH Industrial, the parent company of New Holland, has entered into a strategic partnership with Bluewhite. This multi-phase collaboration is set to integrate Bluewhite’s advanced autonomous systems into New Holland tractors, enabling them to operate fully autonomously in orchards, vineyards, and other specialty crop operations.

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