The agricultural industry is facing a significant challenge: meeting the growing demand for food whilst ensuring sustainability. Fortunately, May has been an eventful month for the industry, with many groundbreaking developments and positive initiatives that are driving sustainable practices in farming.
In this blog, we'll dive into the latest and most exciting advancements in agritech, ranging from innovative funding approaches to scientific breakthroughs and welfare improvements.
Funding and Government Initiatives
- Canada’s largest vertical farming company, GoodLeaf Farms, has managed to secure $78 million syndicated debt financing from CIBC and Farm Credit Canada (FCC). This is months after securing $150 capital financing. The company (backed by McCain Foods), released a statement saying the funding would be used for its accelerated commercial growth. GoodLeaf Farms management has since confirmed the plans to open new sites in Calgary and Montreal.
- New funding has been announced for farmers and landowners for projects to protect and restore thousands of acres of the English landscape. They have been invited to apply for a share of £15m to create new habitats, drive sustainable food production, and enhance nature protection. The second round of the scheme will support up to 25 projects, administered by Natural England and the Environment Agency who are the lead delivery partners for the scheme. It will focus on projects of at least 500 hectares. These initiatives encompass large-scale projects aimed at enhancing and establishing woodlands in various forms, including temperate rainforests, peatlands, nature reserves, and the protection of ancient woodlands, wetlands, and salt marshes. The projects will be selected based on their environmental and social impact, value for money, and suitability for the scheme. In addition, for the first time, a food production criterion has been introduced, which will be used to ensure prospective projects take food production into consideration and mitigate any negative impacts on this where possible.
Crop Research and Food Security
- A new study has been published on wheat resistance against diseases such as leaf rust. A study, lead by Wang et al. was based on decoding the leaf rust resistance gene, initially derived from the wild grass species (Aegilops Umbellulata). The research revealed the emerging role of an unusual tandem kinase fusion protein encoded by this gene, broadening the available set of disease-resistance genes for breeding. This is a crucial discovery for the wheat farming industry, as this globally critical crop is threatened by diseases such as leaf rust.
- Another study, led by Zhang et al. presented detailed examination of food security in China. The study focuses specifically on the impact of increasing intensive droughts on crop yield and the role of irrigation in mitigating this impact under different climate scenarios. The irrigation, which is crucial to agricultural production, is considered the largest water consumption sector. Three methods were applied to examine the effectiveness of irrigation under varied climate scenarios - the Multiple Linear Regression method, a Deep Learning algorithm, and the Erosion-Productivity Impact Calculator model. The conclusion is worrying, showing that under a high-emission future climate scenario, drought-induced wheat yield loss is predicted to reach between 32% and 49%. The study acts as a clarion call for policymakers, stakeholders, and society to work towards more sustainable practices.
- In one of the most challenging growing regions in the United States, Texas, farmers have been employing an ancient technique known as cover cropping. This practice involves planting crops between the growing periods of cash crops such as grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Instead of leaving the soil exposed, these cover crops serve the dual purpose of nourishing and stabilising the soil, benefiting both the farmers and the land they cultivate. It’s an ancient practice being heavily promoted by the US government, as a way to help 21st-century farmers mitigate and adapt to rapidly changing weather conditions. Selected farms are being monitored for data on yield, nitrogen content, soil stability, pollinators, and microbes – good and bad. The study is being led by Alexis Racelis, programme director of the agroecology and resilient food systems program at the University of Texas RGV.
- Thousands of the Co-operative Group members voted to improve the welfare for chickens reared for meat at the annual meeting on Saturday. A motion led by the campaign group Humane League UK asked the mutual to adopt the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) – a set of standards adopted by Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and the Greggs bakery chain – and report on welfare improvements in a year’s time. It was supported by 96% of the 32,000 Co-op members who voted at the AGM, however they were partially overruled by the company’s directors, who said they wanted to keep prices down.
- M&G* has committed to investing up to 150 million euros ($165m) into Regenerate’s inaugural fund and will take an equity stake in the company. Regenerate’s fund is strategically designed to invest directly in agricultural businesses in Europe that are committed to producing “regenerative and climate-positive produce.” This investment approach extends to improving soil health, water conservation, emissions, and biodiversity. The exact size of M&G’s equity stake in the firm, which is to be taken through its Catalyst strategy, has not been disclosed.*(M&G is a global investment manager headquartered in London)
At Gibson Watts, we are confident in our ability to secure the best candidates whilst keeping up with the demands of this ever-evolving market. We have the credentials and expertise to advise and support your business and empower a future generation of agricultural workers.
If you would like to find out more, you can contact us here: https://gibsonwatts.com/contact/