Symbiota's News Update

9th Edition: 12/18/15

Dear Symbiota Team,


The purpose of this newsletter is to keep the team up to date on relevant articles in Ag, microbiome space, etc., as well as informed about any company related news.


Please feel free to send any articles / content you would like in the next edition! We also welcome and appreciate feedback. Send all content / feedback to: ptadi@symbiota.com


Thanks,

Pranav

Articles (click on the link below to be taken to the full article)

Symbiota Mention

Innovation to Tackle Climate Change and Feed a Growing Population: Commercializing Synthetic Biology (Biofuels Digest) Contributor Vonnie Estes reports on synthetic biology and mentions Symbiota as a company developing agtech. Coverage explains Symbiota aims to improve plant health and growth by promoting a healthy microbiome and notes the company raised $7.5 million in funding.


AgTech

4 Reasons to Be Exhilarated About Tech Innovation (Entrepreneur) Reports on tech innovation and highlights the agritech market. Coverage notes, “Technology is being used to spread food, wealth and other resources around the world. Agritech innovations are aiming to increase the amount of water and food supplies, as well as their quality.”


The Term Sheet (Fortune) Dan Primack reports that Descartes Lab, a San Francisco-based satellite imagery analysis company for agricultural companies, raised $5 million in Series A funding. Coverage notes Cultivian Sandbox led the round and was joined by Crosslink Capital, TenOneTen, Data Collective, and ValueStream Labs.


New Satellite to Measure Plant Health (Phys.org) Reports on how the European Space Agency plans to track the health of the world's vegetation with a satellite. Coverage mentions the satellite will detect and measure the glow given off during photosynthesis and notes the ESA plans to launch the satellite by 2022.


Venture Firm Andreessen Horowitz Launches $200 Million Bio Fund (Reuters) Sarah McBride reports that Andreessen Horowitz is launching a new $200 million Bio Fund for investments in the biology and medicine sector. Coverage notes, “While much smaller than the venture firm’s last $1.5 billion general fund, $200 million amounts to a substantial sum for a fund focused on relatively niche areas such as digital therapeutics, cloud technology in biology, and computational medicine.”


FDA Approves First Genetically Engineered Food Animal, a Salmon (USA Today) Liz Szabo reports that the FDA approved the first genetically modified food animal. Coverage mentions criticism of the AquAdvantage salmon, and notes, “The FDA said that scientific studies have ‘demonstrated that the inserted genes remained stable over several generations of fish, that food from the (genetically engineered) salmon is safe to eat by humans and animals, that the genetic engineering is safe for the fish, and the salmon meets the sponsor’s claim about faster growth.’”


Agribusiness Gets Less Hands-on and More High-Tech (Fortune) Michal Lev-Ram reports on the increasing number of startups using big data to develop agritech and reports the Farmers Business Network and Descartes Labs recently led several funding rounds. Coverage notes, “Lest you worry that farming as we know it (or as we envision it) is coming to an end, rest assured it already has. But the opportunities for startups in the agriculture space are likely just beginning.”


Competitor

A New Start-Up Hopes to Develop Faster-Growing Crops—Without Genetic Modification – BioConsortia


Inocucor's Biological Accelerator Products Increase Yields by 8 to 30 Percent in 2015 Field Trials for Row and High-Value Produce Crops


Monsanto Eyes Opportunity in Argentina Ahead of Election (Bloomberg)– Jack Kaskey reports on Monsanto’s interest in Argentina’s upcoming presidential election. Coverage notes Monsanto executives are hopeful the election will lead to an overhaul of agricultural policies that have been blamed for a slump in production and exports.


The Daily Startup: SR One Launches Startup as Biotech VCs Move Upstream (Wall Street Journal) – The Wall Street Journal reports Impossible Foods appointed former Zynga Inc. CFO David Lee as its CFO and COO.


Monsanto Pledges to Be Carbon Neutral by 2021 (ABC News) Jim Salter reports on Monsanto’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2021. Coverage notes Monsanto plans to develop an incentives program to encourage farmers to employ environmentally friendly production methods, including cover crops and conservation tillage that allow soil to absorb more greenhouse gases.


Beyond Meat's CEO Thinks Chicken Can Come From Plants (Entrepreneur) Laura Entis profiles Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown and mentions the company’s recent partnership with delivery startup Chef’d and the appointment of former McDonalds CEO Don Thompson to its Board of Directors. The article discusses the company’s aims to appeal to to mass consumer markets and notes, “Brown is working to have Beyond Meat's products moved from the faux-meat section and placed behind the meat counter, though no supermarket has been convinced to make the change.”


Advice For Higher-Yielding Agriculture Startups (TechCrunch) In a contributed piece for TechCrunch, Syngenta investment manager Gabriel Wilmoth provides lessons for agtech startups and mentions Beyond Meat, noting, “One emerging area of investor interest with the potential to impact broad-acre production lies in the category of ‘alternative proteins,’ which may be plant-derived or even insect-derived, and includes companies like Beyond Meat and Kite Hill.”


How to Satisfy the World’s Surging Appetite for Meat (Wall Street Journal) Jacob Bunge reports on the meat industry and mentions FarmedHere’s plans to launch 18 new sites in metropolitan cities. Coverage notes the meat industry is challenged with satisfying the world’s taste for meat while addressing concerns about the impact of agricultural practices on the environment, animal welfare and human health.


Hampton Creek Founder on Balancing Social Consciousness and Profitability (Washington Post) The Washington Post shares Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick’s Q&A at the 2015 inGENuitY Millennial Entrepreneurship Summit. Coverage notes Tetrick discussed the challenges of balancing social consciousness and profitability.


Microbiome Startup uBiome Will Sequence Poop for the CDC (Wired) Sarah Zhang reports on uBiome’s partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and mentions uBiome plans to analyze more than 10,000 stool samples from hospital patients collected by the CDC. Coverage notes uBiome and CDC aim to develop a “Microbiome Disruption Index” to track how medical treatments affect microbiomes.


Amid Investor Thirst, Ripple Foods Brews Up Dairy-Free Milk (Wall Street Journal) Scott Martin reports on the increase of food investments and companies in 2015, highlighting Ripple Creek’s new dairy-free milk. The company is working on a milk-like drink made from plants that it says offers more protein than almond- or rice-based milk.


AeroFarms Raises $20 Million for High-Tech Urban Agriculture (Wall Street Journal) Lora Kolodny reports AeroFarms has raised in $20 million in Series B funding. Wheatsheaf Group led the investment, joined by GSR Ventures, MissionPoint Capital and Middleland Capital.


Monsanto Says It's Evaluating Another Takeover Bid for Syngenta (Bloomberg) Jack Kaskey reports Monsanto is considering acquiring agrochemical rivals including Syngenta. Coverage provides insight from Monsanto COO Brett Begemann, who expects profit growth to reach 20 percent a year regardless of potential acquisitions.


Monsanto Eyes Opportunity in Argentina Ahead of Election (Bloomberg)– Jack Kaskey reports on Monsanto’s interest in Argentina’s upcoming presidential election. Coverage notes Monsanto executives are hopeful the election will lead to an overhaul of agricultural policies that have been blamed for a slump in production and exports.


The Daily Startup: SR One Launches Startup as Biotech VCs Move Upstream (Wall Street Journal) – The Wall Street Journal reports Impossible Foods appointed former Zynga Inc. CFO David Lee as its CFO and COO.


Monsanto Pledges to Be Carbon Neutral by 2021 (ABC News) Jim Salter reports on Monsanto’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2021. Coverage notes Monsanto plans to develop an incentives program to encourage farmers to employ environmentally friendly production methods, including cover crops and conservation tillage that allow soil to absorb more greenhouse gases.


Beyond Meat's CEO Thinks Chicken Can Come From Plants (Entrepreneur) Laura Entis profiles Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown and mentions the company’s recent partnership with delivery startup Chef’d and the appointment of former McDonalds CEO Don Thompson to its Board of Directors. The article discusses the company’s aims to appeal to to mass consumer markets and notes, “Brown is working to have Beyond Meat's products moved from the faux-meat section and placed behind the meat counter, though no supermarket has been convinced to make the change.”


Advice For Higher-Yielding Agriculture Startups (TechCrunch) In a contributed piece for TechCrunch, Syngenta investment manager Gabriel Wilmoth provides lessons for agtech startups and mentions Beyond Meat, noting, “One emerging area of investor interest with the potential to impact broad-acre production lies in the category of ‘alternative proteins,’ which may be plant-derived or even insect-derived, and includes companies like Beyond Meat and Kite Hill.”


How to Satisfy the World’s Surging Appetite for Meat (Wall Street Journal) Jacob Bunge reports on the meat industry and mentions FarmedHere’s plans to launch 18 new sites in metropolitan cities. Coverage notes the meat industry is challenged with satisfying the world’s taste for meat while addressing concerns about the impact of agricultural practices on the environment, animal welfare and human health.


Hampton Creek Founder on Balancing Social Consciousness and Profitability (Washington Post) The Washington Post shares Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick’s Q&A at the 2015 inGENuitY Millennial Entrepreneurship Summit. Coverage notes Tetrick discussed the challenges of balancing social consciousness and profitability.


Microbiome Startup uBiome Will Sequence Poop for the CDC (Wired) Sarah Zhang reports on uBiome’s partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and mentions uBiome plans to analyze more than 10,000 stool samples from hospital patients collected by the CDC. Coverage notes uBiome and CDC aim to develop a “Microbiome Disruption Index” to track how medical treatments affect microbiomes.


Amid Investor Thirst, Ripple Foods Brews Up Dairy-Free Milk (Wall Street Journal) Scott Martin reports on the increase of food investments and companies in 2015, highlighting Ripple Creek’s new dairy-free milk. The company is working on a milk-like drink made from plants that it says offers more protein than almond- or rice-based milk.


AeroFarms Raises $20 Million for High-Tech Urban Agriculture (Wall Street Journal) Lora Kolodny reports AeroFarms has raised in $20 million in Series B funding. Wheatsheaf Group led the investment, joined by GSR Ventures, MissionPoint Capital and Middleland Capital.


How to satisfy the world’s surging appetite for meat (Wall Street Journal) Jacob Bunge reports on the challenges on food producers due to both the current consumption rates of meat and the growing population. Given today’s agricultural productivity, growing the crops to feed all of that poultry, beef and other livestock would require every acre of the planet’s cropland, according to research firm FarmEcon LLC—leaving no room for raising the grains, fruits and vegetables.


Monsanto to Face Crimes Against Humanity Tribunal at International Criminal Court (Counter Current News) Counter Current News reports on the announcement made by dozens of farming, sustainable food, and environmental justice groups that they will take Monsanto to trial for charges of ecocide and crimes against humanity and nature. Millions Against Monsanto, The Organic Consumers Association, Regeneration International, and The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements are among numerous organizations bringing this legal action.


Industry

Do We Underestimate the Power of Plants and Trees? (BBC) BBC interviews four plant experts on the importance of understanding plant intelligence. The article includes insight from Tel Aviv University Professor Daniel Chamovitz, who states, “We're living in a rapidly-changing environment - global warming, changes in precipitation, shifting populations. If we don't understand how a plant senses and responds to its environment and then adapts, we might find ourselves in a big problem 50 to 100 years from now.”


How Drones Will Drastically Transform U.S. Agriculture, in One Chart (Market Watch) Sally French reports on the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research report and discusses the potential impact of drones on U.S. agriculture. Coverage notes, “The report indicates that robots in the next 10 years could become the main workhorses powering farms, instead of people.”


A New Way to Make Resistant Plants (Popular Science)– Brooke Borel reports that Michigan State University researchers engineered arabidopsis to better withstand insect and pathogen attacks. Coverage notes researchers plan to experiment with the technique to make plants resistant to other environmental challenges including drought.


Harnessing a Peptide Holds Promise for Increasing Crop Yields without More Fertilizer (Phys.org) Reports molecular biologists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered a peptide in an alfalfa plant which could improve crop yields without increasing fertilizer use. Coverage notes, “Discovering NCR211 peptides that maintain bacterial survival inside host cells may turn out to be a key factor in future efforts to improve legume crops without using more fertilizer, which would be an important advance for farming in developing countries and organic farming in the developed world.”


How Globalization and Climate Change Are Taking Away Our Favorite Foods (Smithsonian) Simran Sethi reports on the decreasing global diversity of food and discusses the implications stating, “A reduction in agrobiodiversity places us in an increasingly vulnerable position, where warming temperatures or a single pest or disease could severely compromise what we grow, raise and eat.”


USDA sees more corn acres in 2016, fewer soybeans (Future Farms) Farm Futures reports on the USDA’s release of its long-term projections for U.S. crop and livestock production on Friday, which show a 2% increase in crop production in 2016 and a 5% drop in soybeans.


Dow and DuPont, two of America’s oldest giants, to merge in jaw-dropping megadeal (Washington Post) Drew Harwell reports on the $130 million merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont, which will then split again into three independent, public companies focused on agriculture, including seeds and pesticides; materials, including coatings, plastics and industrial chemicals; and specialty products, including chemicals key to the electronics, biosciences and health industries..


Seeking to Reduce Debt, Glencore May Pursue I.P.O. of Agricultural Business (New York Times) Chad Bray reports Swiss mining company Glencore is considering selling a minority stake in its agriculture business or potentially seek an initial public offering of that business as it pursues additional asset sales to further reduce its debt.


Syngenta Gains as ChemChina Report Spurs Bets on Bidding War (Bloomberg) Sheenagh Matthews reports on the renewed takeover bid from China National Chemical for Syngenta. The article continues by highlighting analysts’ predictions that Syngenta is also likely to see renewed interest from Monsanto.


Biotech startup will mine the gut for drugs affecting human behavior (Stat News)– Ike Swetlitz reports on the new biotech company Kallyope, which launched Wednesday with $44 million in financing. The company will explore the interaction between the brain and the microbes in the gut. In particular, it’s looking for molecules released by the microbiome that might affect human behavior and that could be developed into medications.


Why It's Time to Map the Microbiome (Kavli Roundtable) (Yahoo News) Alan Brown reports on a roundtable discussion between The Kavli Foundation and three of its scientists — Rob Knight, Janet Jansson and Jeff Miller — who authored the Unified Microbiome Initiative proposal, which calls to develop more groundbreaking tools to research microbiomes. The scientists discussed topics such as the recent focus on microbiomes, new potential for microbiomes and contributions the new technology could make.

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Have a great weekend!