Week in Review
In Aotearoa, Silver Fern Farms has forecast a significant drop in sheepmeat pricing for this season, with lamb prices forecast between $6.90 - $7.30/kg well behind last year’s industry average open price of $8.74/kg. Suppliers have been advised that weak international demand and prices, as well as increased supply out of Australia is the reason for low pricing. Christchurch-based company PolyNatural is about to start exporting their biodegradable vine clips, taking commercial orders from Australian and New Zealand winegrowers with future plans to expand into Canada and France. Used to hold the nets that keep birds away from ripening grapes, around 30 million vine clips are used in New Zealand annually. After years of product development and vineyard trials, PolyNatural’s eco-friendly vine clips are 100% bio-based from renewable materials and fully degrade in the right soil conditions, solving a major plastic littering issue for vineyards. Investment fund AgriZeroNZ has invested $4.1 million in a US start-up, Hoof Biome, which has developed a probiotic and natural enzyme which is showing methane reductions of 80% in laboratory testing. The funding will allow the company to move to the next stage of development, proof-of-concept animal trials. AgriZeroNZ says that despite its early stage of development, the probiotic has enormous potential for New Zealand’s pastoral farming systems. The Commerce Commission have approved the purchase of North Island inshore catch rights by iwi-owned Moana New Zealand from rival Sanford Limited. The deal will see Moana lease Sanford’s quota for at least 10 years, with Sanford retaining quota ownership, and will mean Moana becomes the largest inshore fisheries company in Aotearoa.
In international news, the European Commission has confirmed they will not revisit their decision on Ireland’s nitrate derogation, despite a strong case put forward by Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The EU’s Nitrate Directive permits a maximum nitrogen usage of 170kg N, but had allowed for time limited derogations under certain circumstances. Ireland’s current derogation (250kg N) is due to expire in January 2026, but the current limit will now reduce further to 220kg N/ha in 2024 in certain areas, because water quality results have not shown sufficient improvement. Indonesia has lifted an export ban and facility restrictions on Australian cattle which had effectively brought trade between the two nations to a stop. Trade had ceased in July when Indonesian officials detected the highly infectious lumpy skin disease on 13 animals from Australia. Australian cattle producers are hoping for a quick resumption of exports, the restrictions had resulted in uncertainty for an estimated 50,000 cattle in the state of Western Australia alone. Belgian firm, Biobest, who develop biological-based crop protection and pollination products, will acquire an 85% stake in Brazil-based Biotrop, The deal is part of Biobest’s strategy to expand into South America, and is valued at USD 569.4 million (NZD 963.4 million). Brazil is the largest agtech market in South America, and Biotrop holds the leading position in the biologicals market.
- SFF forecast underscores sheepmeat woes
- Christchurch firm’s biodegradable vine clips going global
- Kiwi fund boosts US methane-cutting tech
- Commerce Commission clears Moana to buy Sanford's North Island inshore fishing business
- Commission rules out revisiting Ireland’s nitrates derogation
- Northern Australia cattle producers welcome lift on Indonesian export ban and restrictions
- Biobest eyes South America expansion with $570m acquisition
Research and Development Spotlight
Cellular horticulture: Lab-grown fruit research under way [13 September, The Country]
There are more than 80 companies globally working to commercialise lab-gown meat and seafood, but cellular horticulture has a far smaller profile. A team of Plant & Food Research scientists are researching the viability of growing fruit using lab-grown plant cells without a vine, bush or tree. The team are 18 months into a five-year programme, with initial trials looking at the cells of blueberries, apples, cherries, feijoas, peaches, nectarines and grapes. Like lab-grown meats, the challenge for the team will be to create a nutritious end product that has taste, texture and appearance familiar to consumers. Their goal is not necessarily to completely replicate fruit grown under traditional methods, rather to create a new food with equally appealing attributes.
Tags: Horticulture; Cellular food production; Research & Development
Producers and Retailer Spotlight
UK Supermarket Sainsbury’s has announced it is investing £6 million (NZD 12.7 million) annually to support its supplier dairy farmers. £4.3 million of this fund will go towards paying farmers an additional fixed 1p per litre of milk, which will mean an extra £27,000 each year for the average farm. Alongside the additional milk payment, £1.7 million has been committed to sustainability bonuses to reward farmers helping Sainsbury’s achieve its own sustainability goals, specifically in carbon reduction. According to Sainsbury’s Director of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Horticulture Gavin Hodgson, the retailer recognises their own responsibility to support farmers, giving them confidence to invest in long-term changes as the British dairy industry becomes increasingly challenging for producers, with a need for continuous investment in the sector.
Tags: Retailers; Dairy
Morphine from microbes: Fermelanta wins Japan agrifoodtech pitch [17 August, AgFunder]
Advances in microbial fermentation have meant that many food ingredients, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals are able to be produced, however, to date, microbes have not been used to produce high value plant secondary metabolites including morphine and codeine. These compounds are still extracted traditionally in costly and inefficient processes because of the complexity of the metabolic pathways. Japanese start-up Fermelanta has been able to reproduce the enzymatic pathways to produce these molecules using precision fermentation. Fermelanta has recently closed a Y200 million (NZD 2.3 million) seed round, which will be used to help them improve yields to compete with existing plant-based production methods for benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, which are too complex for cost-effective chemical synthesis.
Tags: Research & Development; Precision fermentation; Pharmaceuticals
Feral goats can be a cashmere goldmine [12 September, Stuff]
Woolyarns has recently opened a new cashmere processing plant in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. They currently source cashmere from between 8,000 to 10,000 goats, but have capacity for more supply. The fibre from goat wool may offer a new revenue stream for New Zealand farmers, with cashmere now selling for between $100 - $150/kg. Many farmers already use goats to eat and control weeds on farm but may not realise goat hair is sought after and could open a new value stream for their businesses. Goats are also able to be farmed on steep land not suited to beef cattle, generating income from previously unutilised land
Tags: Farmers & Producers; Goat farming
Milk from carbon dioxide and electricity [6 September, The Future of Protein Production]
The European Innovation Council (EIC), part of Horizon Europe, is aiming to create a scientific breakthrough with their €5.5 million (NZD 10 million) ‘HYDROCOW’ project, producing milk from CO2 and electricity. The collaboration is being led by Finland-based Solar Foods, with the goal to engineer a microbe that converts hydrogen and CO2 into beta-lactoglobulin, a major constituent of milk. While engineering microbes to secrete nutritional proteins is not new, most solutions rely on heterotrophic microbes that feed on energy sources derived from agriculture (e.g. sugar), HYDROCOW is attempting to modify a hydrogen-oxidising microbe to build a carbon neutral system and completely remove agriculture from the equation.
Tags: Research & Development; Alternative Proteins; Dairy
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