Investors continue to see potential in agtech, as Farmers Business Network (FBN) has secured US$250 million in funding from a group of new and existing investors. The Series F funding for FBN, announced on Monday, was led by funds managed by New York-based BlackRock Inc., with participation from new investors Baron Capital Group, Balyasny Asset Management, Mandi Ventures, Lupa Systems…
Investors continue to see potential in agtech, as Farmers Business Network (FBN) has secured US$250 million in funding from a group of new and existing investors.
The Series F funding for FBN, announced on Monday, was led by funds managed by New York-based BlackRock Inc., with participation from new investors Baron Capital Group, Balyasny Asset Management, Mandi Ventures, Lupa Systems and Ron Shaich. Existing investors, such as Kleiner Perkins, and funds managed by Fidelity Investments Canada also contributed to the US$250 million amount, which follows a $175 million Series E investment from Kleiner Perkins in January 2019.
According to sources that spoke with Bloomberg, the investment values FBN at about US$1.75 billion — up from US$1.1 billion last year.
The company says it will use the new funds to expand its FBN Direct online marketplace for seed and crop inputs, as well as to build out its FBN Crop Marketing and Financial Services.
“Our mission as a company is to improve the profitability of farming families around the world for generations to come. Many farmers and ranchers were already struggling before the disruption and financial challenges brought on by the pandemic,” says Amol Deshpande, FBN co-founder and CEO, in a company news release. “We will double down on putting farmers first by further investing in technologies that lower costs, improve transparency and create local community development opportunities in rural areas.”
Founded as a Silicon Valley/Midwest U.S.-based startup in 2014, FBN’s initial focus was on aggregating farm-level data to improve price transparency for farmers buying crop inputs. The company has since evolved to also sell seed and other crop inputs through its FBN Direct platform.
FBN entered the Canadian marketplace in 2017, opening an office in High River, Alberta and acquiring crop input retailer Yorkton Distributors at Yorkton, Saskatchewan shortly thereafter.
As of Monday, the company says it has grown to have 12 thousand farm members covering 40 million acres in Canada and the U.S. FBN is also expanding into Australia following the acquisition of Farmsave, an Australian online crop input platform, last month.
As the number of farms has expanded, so has FBN’s workforce, which the company says now consists of over 600 people, with offices in San Carlos, California; Chicago, Illinois; Sioux Falls, S.D.; as well as a Canadian headquarters in High River, Alta. and Australian headquarters in Perth, Australia.
FBN’s entry into the crop input market has not gone without controversy, as Canada’s Competition Bureau launched an investigation in February 2020 into allegations that several crop input manufacturers and wholesalers have “anti-competitively refused to supply or restricted supply to Farmers Business Network Canada.” The companies under investigation include BASF, Bayer, Cargill, Corteva, Federated Co-op, Univar Solutions and Winfield.
As part of the Alberta government’s $10 million Irrigation Rehabilitation Program, the St. Mary’s River Irrigation District (SMRID) will receive an allotted $2.6 million in funds to address water infrastructure.…
As part of the Alberta government’s $10 million Irrigation Rehabilitation Program, the St. Mary’s River Irrigation District (SMRID) will receive an allotted $2.6 million in funds to address water infrastructure. The irrigation district provides water for irrigation and agricultural operations, municipal use, recreation and wildlife and habitat enhancement.
“Crumbling infrastructure on the St. Mary River network highlights the importance of on-going maintenance and rehabilitation,” says Devin Dreeshen, minister for agriculture and forestry. “Alberta’s government will continue to invest in irrigation to attract value-added food processors that will create full-time jobs and expand our economy.”
Alberta’s irrigation industry supports approximately 56,000 full time jobs annually and contributes about $2.4 billion in labour income to the province. “Irrigation is essential to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Albertans and the Alberta government is committed to support this important industry,” says Grant Hunter, associate minister of red tape reduction. “This grant to St. Mary River Irrigation District will help ensure southern Albertans continue continue to have reliable domestic water, aquatic habitats and recreational areas,” Hunter adds.
Alberta government investments through the Irrigation Rehabilitation program are matched by districts at a ratio of 75 per cent government to 25 per cent district. “We appreciate the funding we’re receiving through the Irrigation Rehabilitation program,” says George Lohues, board chair of the St. Mary River district. The district supports a rich and varied abundance of crops, says Lohues.
The government of Ontario has pledged a $2.35 million investment to the University of Guelph (U of G) for advanced animal research related to livestock health, well-being, and productivity. Designed…
The government of Ontario has pledged a $2.35 million investment to the University of Guelph (U of G) for advanced animal research related to livestock health, well-being, and productivity.
Designed to enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of the Ontario livestock sector, the research will provide farmers with the latest knowledge and on-farm solutions for safely managing livestock, so they can continue to be world leaders in the agriculture sector. It will be delivered through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the U of G.
Malcom Campbell, vice-president of research at the University of Guelph says the university is excited to build on their partnership with OMAFRA.
“This research, undertaken by world-class researchers, will create real-world solutions that support the competitiveness of our livestock industry; that ensure the continued production of safe, sustainable, and nutritious food; and that fuel innovation that has a positive global impact,” Campbell explains.
The research projects will investigate innovate methods, practices and products that will help the sector better understand and support livestock health and welfare, including, but not limited to:
- Identifying genetic markers to reduce disease and infections in sheep and cows
- Evaluating novel methods to prevent bovine respiratory disease
- Validating the use of probiotics to support the health of multiple livestock species
Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman says the investment will support the growth, productivity, and competitiveness of Ontario’s livestock sector.
“The research we’re investing in will provide farmers with some of the latest knowledge and tools they need to keep farm animals and food safe,” says Hardeman.
Health Canada has confirmed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) refined canola oil is safe for human consumption. The highly refined oil is derived from Nuseed’s omega-3 canola. The Canadian Food Inspection…
Health Canada has confirmed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) refined canola oil is safe for human consumption. The highly refined oil is derived from Nuseed’s omega-3 canola.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has also determined that DHA canola crude oil and meal are safe for aquaculture and livestock feed, respectively. The organization also confirmed the omega-3 canola poses no increased environmental risk comparing it to other cultivated canola and has approved the crop for cultivation.
The proprietary oil fills the gap, nutritionally speaking, between how much omega-3 — naturally found in fish and algae — is needed to support human and animal nutrition, and how little the ocean can sustainably provide.
Read more on DHA omega-3 oil in “Fish oil cookie fights cholesterol and tastes alright too”
The DHA-rich fatty acid profile in the oil has been developed as an alternative to fish oil for aquafeed (marketed as Aquaterra) and for human nutrition (marketed as Nutriterra).
Brent Zachariads, Nuseed group executive, says that Canadian regulatory approvals are an important milestone in the development and commercialization of omega-3 canola, a transformational business opportunity.
“Given Canada’s position as the largest canola production country, approval also ensures our future scalability, giving us access to a key expansion market,” says Zacharias.
Nuseed is also progressing additional regulatory applications in other relevant markets around the world.
With the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement process in tatters, Canada is among a group of 23 WTO members that are trying to apply a band-aid solution for settling trade…
With the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement process in tatters, Canada is among a group of 23 WTO members that are trying to apply a band-aid solution for settling trade disputes amongst themselves.
The group, which also includes Australia, China, the European Union, and Mexico, announced on Monday (August 3) that its temporary arrangement is officially operational.
On Friday, the participating countries appointed 10 arbitrators, including one Canadian, who will hear appeals of WTO panel reports involving the countries in the agreement.
“With the agreed pool of arbitrators, the interim appeal arrangement for the WTO disputes is now up and running,” notes EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan. “It shows that participating WTO members are willing to take concrete action to preserve an independent dispute settlement system with an appeal function. We can now turn our attention to finding a solution to the underlying problems through reform of the WTO Appellate Body and other aspects of the WTO system that need improvement.”
The U.S. and the UK are notably absent from the group.
The WTO’s dispute settlement process has been paralyzed since late last year, as the U.S. government has refused to appoint new members to the WTO’s Appellate Body, which hands down rulings when there’s an appeal following a WTO ruling.
The absence of a functioning WTO dispute settlement process is significant for Canadian agricultural exports, as it serves as the last-ditch mechanism for enforcing market access that’s been agreed to between WTO members.
For example, the WTO’s Appellate Body ruled in favour of Canada and Mexico when both countries challenged U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules for pork and beef in 2015. If a similar dispute were to arise today, there would be no functioning WTO body to hand down a binding decision.
The new temporary arrangement between the 23 WTO members is retroactive to April 30, 2020.
“This arrangement will be in place on an interim basis until the WTO Appellate Body is fully operational. It will be open to all WTO members wishing to join,” said Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Mary Ng, in a statement this past spring.
So if there’s a dispute between participants in this temporary arrangement that results in an appeal, three members of the arbitrator pool of 10 will be selected randomly to hear the case. Canada’s appointee is Valerie Hughes, who has previously worked in high level international trade law roles for the Canadian government and at the WTO.
As noted by Minister Ng, the interim arrangement is open to all WTO members. The initial group consists of: Australia; Benin; Brazil; Canada; China; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; the European Union; Guatemala; Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Mexico; Montenegro; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Norway; Pakistan; Singapore; Switzerland; Ukraine; and Uruguay.
The WTO is currently in election-mode, as several candidates are running to replace Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, who is stepping down at the end of August. Most of the candidates say resolving the dispute settlement process is one of their top priorities.
Related: Is the WTO broken?