Companies’ Climate Promises Face a Wild Card: Farmers

Some of the largest companies in the U.S. have pledged to adopt climate-friendly agricultural techniques. But some farmers say they haven’t provided enough incentive.

#agriculture-and-farming, #carbon-capture-and-sequestration, #cargill-inc, #corporations, #food, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #iowa, #pepsico-inc, #soil, #sustainable-living, #united-states

Which is worse for the soil—combines or dinosaurs?

Image of a sauropod in a lush environment.

Enlarge / Having this guy stomp through might mean that things would struggle to grow there afterwards. (credit: Roger Harris)

Words I did not expect to read in a scientific paper this week: “The similarity in mass and contact area between modern farm vehicles and sauropods raises the question: What was the mechanical impact of these prehistoric animals on land productivity?” The paper, from Thomas Keller and Dani Or, raises what may be a significant worry: Farm vehicles have grown over the past few decades, to the point where they may be compacting the subsurface soil where roots of crops extend. This poses a risk to agricultural productivity.

The paper then compares that compaction risk to the one posed by the largest animals to ever roam our land: sauropods.

The big crunch

We think of the ground as being solid, but gaps and channels within soil are critical to plant life, since they allow air and water to reach roots. Soil compaction, in its extreme form, gets rid of all these spaces, making the ground much less hospitable for plants. And compaction is hard to reverse; it can take decades of plant and animal activity to break up the compacted soil again and re-establish a healthy ecosystem.

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#agriculture, #biology, #dinosaurs, #paleontology, #sauropods, #science, #soil

This Fire-Loving Fungus Eats Charcoal, if It Must

Some fungi sprout in fiery shades of orange and pink after wildfires, feasting on what was left behind by the burn.

#carbon-dioxide, #charcoal, #frontiers-in-microbiology-journal, #fungi, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #microbiology, #research, #soil, #wildfires, #your-feed-science

No Soil. No Growing Seasons. Just Add Water and Technology.

A new breed of hydroponic farm, huge and high-tech, is popping up in indoor spaces all over America, drawing celebrity investors and critics.

#agriculture-and-farming, #appharvest-inc, #barber-dan, #diet-and-nutrition, #organic-foods-and-products, #soil, #united-states

Fairy Circles in Australia May Be Due to Microbes, Study Says

A small study suggests that soil microbes could play a role in the ring-like grass formations in parts of Australia’s wilderness.

#australia, #australian-journal-of-botany, #grass, #microbiology, #research, #soil, #your-feed-science

Nordetect’s system to monitor soil and water for indoor agriculture raises seed funding

As indoor farming expands, a number of new companies are cropping up to provide better data and monitoring tools for the businesses aimed at improving efficiencies and quality of indoor crops. 

One of these companies, the Copenhagen-based Nordetect, is entering the U.S. market with around $1.5 million in funding from government investment firms and traditional accelerators like SOS V, with a tech that the company claims can give vertical farms a better way to monitor and manage nutrients and water quality.

Controlled agriculture, whether in greenhouses or warehouses, benefits from its ability to administer every aspect of the inputs to ensure that plants have the optimal growing conditions. It is, however, far more expensive than just seeding the ground.

Proponents say that these farms can overcome the additional expense by improving efficiency around water use, reducing the application of pesticides and fertilizer, and cultivating for better, tastier produce.

That’s where Keenan Pinto and Palak Sehgal’s Nordetect comes in. The two co-founders have known each other since they were undergraduates in India eight years ago. They went on to do their masters work together and after working in bioengineering plants — Sehgal focused on flowering systems in plants and Pinto focused on roots — they both went into more digital fields — but maintained their fascination with plants and kept in touch with each other.

Professional work in medical diagnostics for Sehgal and lab instrumentation for Pinto kept both busy, but they continued their discussions around plant science and soil health.

Roughly three years ago, the two hit on the idea for a combined toolkit for water quality monitoring and soil health. Sehgal left the India Institutes of Technology, where she had been working, and joined Pinto in Copenhagen to begin developing the tech that would form the core of Nordetect’s business proposition full time.

The company’s technology consists of an analyzer and a cartridge, a microfluidic chip that users can insert into their water tank to take a sample. From the data that the device collects, farmers can control the nutrients they put into the water to optimize for traits like color and flavor, Pinto said.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Francesco83

The company was accepted into SOSV’s Hax accelerator in 2017 and the two first time founders moved from Denmark to Shenzhen to begin developing the business. In late 2018 the company moved back to Denmark and raised a small amount of additional capital from SOSV and Rockstart.

By 2020, watching the expansion of vertical farming, the company took what had initially been a soil monitoring tool and added water quality monitoring features to support indoor farming. That’s when the business started taking off, according to Pinto.

“One of the interesting things is when i consider the outdoor vs. the indoor markets. The outdoor felt a bit conservative… the indoor seems much more forthcoming… and that traction allowed us to pull together this funding round $1.5 million,” Pinto said. 

The new round came from Rockstart, Preseed Ventures, SOSV, the government of Denmark’s growth fund, and Luminate, a Rochester, NY-based accelerator that focuses on optical electronics technology.

Luminate’s participation is one reason why Nordetect is coming to the U.S., but it’s hardly the only reason. There’s also the capital that has come in to finance indoor ag companies. The two largest vertical farming companies in the U.S., Plenty and Bowery Farming have raised $541 million and $167 million between them.

“The vertical movement has put people into the position where they are what I call data farmers,” said Pinto. “Each batch of produce is being used to learn and the data is more important than the output. We used this market as a beachhead.”

#agriculture, #articles, #copenhagen, #denmark, #electronics, #india, #new-york, #shenzhen, #shutterstock, #soil, #sosv, #tc, #united-states, #urban-agriculture, #vertical-farming

Anuvia raises $103 million to commercialize its novel fertilizer

Anuvia Plant Nutrients has raised $103 million to commercialize its novel fertilizer technology.

The company, backed by investors like TPG ART, Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, Generate Capital andPiva Capital, is now ready to roll out its tech, which is already used on roughly 1200 farms and is projected to be on 20 million acres of farmland by 2025. 

Now led by longtime agriculture executive Amy Yoder, who represents the sixth generation of a Michigan farm family, Anuvia pitches its tech as a supplement for crops that can boost productivity by taking excrement, food waste and agricultural processing waste and converting that into useful fertilizer using a proprietary catalytic process. 

By treating the waste with a specific blend of chemicals Yoder said Anuvia’s technology can control the release of nutrients as plants grow to make more productive crops and reduce leaching into soil, protecting groundwater and restoring carbon to the soil.

Anuvia is one of a growing number of agriculture technology companies trying to juice crop productivity and capture carbon to provide additional revenues from more abundant crops and carbon capture and storage. Other startups, including Pivot Bio, Indigo Agriculture, AgBiome, and Agrinos, are all developing other crop treatments that can purportedly boost agricultural production.

“Most of what I see would be very complimentary to us,” said Yoder. “Because we put the carbon back into the soil, because the nutrients are held in different way. You could utilize the pivot technology and the Anuvia technology. Those things when they could piggyback together could make really nice solutions in the longterm.”

The Winter Garden, Fla.-based company has a 1.2 million ton facility for production, but the company wants to build out additional capacity and continue developing new fertilizers to take to market, Yoder said.

Farmers using the product see increased yields of around five times their previous production levels and the product can be used on all the main row crops, according to Yoder.

That claim has been verified by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a leading global environmental consulting firm, versus traditional fertilizer on corn, rice, and cotton.

Anuvia’s treatment can also reduce greenhouse gases on production by up to 32% compared to commercial fertilizers. Anuvia estimates that its products could provide emissions reductions equivalent to removing 30,000 cars from roads. If the company can get farmers to apply its treatment to the 90 million acres of corn in the U.s. that would reduce the equivalent emissions of 1.8 million cars, according to a statement.

“With the world’s population expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, we need technology-enabled, large-scale agriculture to meet this growing demand,” says Dr. Geoff Duyk, Founder and Managing Partner of Circularis and Anuvia Board Member. “Anuvia’s technology will help farms continue to feed the world, while also advancing the circular economy, increasing sustainability, and enhancing resource efficiency.” 

 

#agriculture, #articles, #board-member, #chemicals, #florida, #food-waste, #indigo, #managing-partner, #michigan, #soil, #tc, #technology, #united-states

How Selfish Are Plants? Let’s Do Some Root Analysis

A new model further untangles the complex strategy games playing out under our feet.

#agriculture-and-farming, #flowers-and-plants, #gardens-and-gardening, #peppers, #research, #roots, #science-journal, #soil, #your-feed-science

Investors including Microsoft’s climate fund back hyperlocal environmental monitoring tech developer Aclima

Mitigating the effects of climate change and pollution is a global problem, but it’s one that requires local solutions.

While that seems like common sense, most communities around the world don’t have tools that can monitor emissions and pollutants at the granular levels they need to develop plans that can address these pollutants.

Aclima, a decade-old startup founded by Davida Herzl, is looking to solve that problem and has raised $40 million in new funding from strategic and institutional venture capital investors to accelerate its growth.

“We’ve built a platform that enables hyperlocal measurement. We measure all the greenhouse gases as well as regulated air pollutants. We deploy sensor networks that combine mobile sensing where we use fleets of vehicles as a roving network. And we bring that all together and bring that into a back end,” Herzl said. 

The networks of air quality monitoring technology that exists — and is subsidized by the government — is costly and lacking in the kinds of minute details on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis that communities can use to effectively address pollution problems.

“A typical air quality monitoring station would cost somewhere between $1 million to $2 million. Here in the Bay Area, the regulator is paying less than $3 million for access to all of this for the entire Bay Area,” Herzl said. 

Aclima’s technologies are already being deployed across California, and some of the company’s largest customers are municipalities in the Bay Area and down south in San Diego. 

GettyImages 1155300963

Image Credits: Getty Images under a license.

The company has two main offerings: an enterprise professional software product that’s geared toward regulators, experts, and businesses that want to get a handle on their greenhouse gas emissions and environmentally polluting operations and a free tool that’s available to the public.

A third revenue stream is through partnerships with companies like Google, which have attached Aclima’s sensors to its roving mapping vehicles to capture climate and environmental quality data alongside geographic information.

“You’re seeing a lot of large companies in traditionally who are now investing significant amount into really trying to understand their emissions profile and prioritize emission reductions in a data driven way,” Herzl said.

The company’s data is also providing real world tools to communities that are looking to address systemic inequalities in locations that have been hardest hit by industrial pollution.

West Oakland, for instance, has used Aclima’s data to develop community intervention plans to reduce pollution in the communities that have been most impacted by the regions industrial economy.

“The interconnected crises of climate change, public health and environmental justice urgently require lasting solutions,” said Herzl, in a statement. “Measurement will play a key role in shaping solutions and tracking progress. With this coalition of investors, we’re expanding our capacity to support new and existing customers and partners taking bold climate action.”

As a result of the new round of funding, led by Clearvision Ventures, the fund’s founder and managing partner, Dan Ahn will take a seat on the board of directors.

Photo: Greg Epperson/Getty Images

“They are the clear category leader in an important and emerging field of data and standards at the intersection of climate, public health and the economy,” Ahn said in a statement. “Both governments and industry will need Aclima’s critical data and analytics to benchmark and accelerate progress to reduce emissions.”

Other investors in Aclima’s latest round include the corporate investment arm of the sensor manufacturer Robert Bosch, which views the company as a strategic component of its efforts to use sensor data to combat climate change. 

“Aclima has built an expansive mobile and stationary sensor network that generates billions of measurements about our most critical resources every week,” says Dr. Ingo Ramesohl, Managing Director of RBVC, in a statement. “Bosch invents and delivers connected solutions for a smarter future across transportation, home, industrial, and many other fields. What Aclima has achieved in connected environmental sensing is an impressive feat. Together, we can accelerate Aclima’s ability to support customers in taking decisive and data-driven climate action.”

Another key investor is Microsoft, which has backed the company through one of the first direct investments from the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund. 

“We established our Climate Innovation Fund earlier this year to accelerate the development of environmental sustainability solutions based on the best available science,” said Brandon Middaugh, Director, Climate Innovation Fund, Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re encouraged by Aclima’s pioneering approach to mapping air pollution sources and exposures at a hyperlocal level and the implications this technology can have for making data-driven environmental decisions with consideration for climate equity.”

Other investors also adding Aclima to their portfolios in this round include Splunk Inc. GingerBread Capital, KTB Network, ACVC Partners, and the Womens VC Fund II. Existing shareholders participating in the round include Social Capital, Rethink Impact, Kapor Capital, and the Schmidt Family Foundation, the company said in a statement.

 

#aclima, #articles, #bosch, #brandon-middaugh, #california, #climate-change, #davida-herzl, #director, #google, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #kapor-capital, #managing-partner, #oakland, #pollution, #san-diego, #schmidt-family-foundation, #social-capital, #soil, #tc

Global Warming Could Unlock Carbon From Tropical Soil

Warming soils in the tropics could cause microbes to release carbon dioxide from storage. One scientist called the finding “another example of why we need to worry more.”

#carbon-dioxide, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #nature-journal, #research, #smithsonian-tropical-research-institute, #soil