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He Grew Up on a Farm. Now, He Helps Protect Them.
Oct. 3, 2019 | The New York Times | By Norman Mayersohn.

Books: Warren Buffett biography, “Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist,”

Few livelihoods offer as many paths to failure as agriculture. Throughout history, farmers have been at the mercy of nature — be it weather, pests or crop diseases — even as the survival of people and livestock depended on their success...... Thomas Njeru, is a co-founder and the chief financial officer of Pula, a four-year-old microinsurance firm that serves 1.7 million smallholder farms of 0.6 acres or less in 10 African countries and India. Microinsurance — think of it as an offshoot of the microloan programs that kick-start businesses in impoverished areas — provides protection for low-income individuals who do not have access to conventional coverage....Pula, based in Nairobi, Kenya, partners with government agencies and loan providers to cover the cost of the insurance, which is included in the price of seed and fertilizer; there is no direct charge to the farmer. Among the coverages Pula provides is weather index insurance to cover failures of seed germination, using satellite data to determine whether there has been sufficient rainfall. Longer-term coverage, called yield index insurance, compensates farmers with replacement supplies in the event of a poor harvest......People in Africa don't invest in agriculture because the chance of them losing their money due to the vagaries of the weather is huge.........Pula’s mission is to give farmers confidence by providing risk mitigation. Our solutions protect a farmer’s investment by pairing it with insurance. We build business cases to persuade Fortune 500 companies, seed and fertilizer suppliers, lending institutions, and governments in Africa, that embedded insurance will help deliver better results for both businesses and food security....The sad reality is that farmers are one drought or one disease outbreak away from sliding into absolute poverty......the penetration of agriculture insurance in Africa is less than 1 percent. The reason is that insurance companies’ business models are not set up to serve the unique needs of smallholder farmers......scaling Pula’s business model to the point that insured seed and fertilizer become ubiquitous in the market......The average annual insurance premium per farmer is about $3 to $5. This includes the cost of product development, pricing, underwriting, claim adjustment and, of course, the claim costs. We use artificial intelligence, mobile-based registration systems, remote sensing and automation tools...Agriculture insurance is a cemetery of pilots and trials..
Africa  agriculture  behavioral_change  books  Bottom_of_the_Pyramid  crop_insurance  farming  insurance  Kenya  low-income  microfinance  mobile_applications  poverty  precarious  Pula  seeds  smallholders  start_ups  risks  risk-mitigation  Warren_Buffett  weather 
october 2019 by jerryking
Gene editing: how agritech is fighting to shape the food we eat
February 9, 2019 | Financial Times | by Emiko Terazono in Norwich and Clive Cookson in London.
agriculture  agribusiness  bananas  biologists  Crispr  farming  food  fruits  gene_editing  monocultures 
february 2019 by jerryking
Canada doomed to be branch plant for global tech giants unless Ottawa updates thinking, Balsillie warns | Financial Post
James McLeod
November 16, 2018
7:27 PM EST

Canadian governments need to radically rethink their approach to the knowledge economy if the country is to be anything more than a branch plant for global technology giants,.......“I think they confuse a cheap jobs strategy … (and) foreign branch plant pennies with innovation billions,” .........Balsillie has argued that the “intangible” economy of data, software and intellectual property is fundamentally different from the classical industrial economy built on the trade of goods and services, and that because Canadian policymakers fail to understand that difference, they keep being taken for rubes.......Balsillie was particularly critical of the federal government’s policy when it comes to “branch plant” investments in Canada in the technology sector.

He said that in the traditional economy of goods and services, foreign direct investment (FDI) is a good thing, because there’s a multiplier effect — $100 million for a new manufacturing plant or an oil upgrader might create $300 million in spinoff economic activity.

But if you’re just hiring programmers to write software, the picture is different, he said. It’s a much smaller number of jobs with fewer economic benefits, and, more importantly, the value created through intellectual property flows out of the country.

“Our FDI approaches have been the same for the intangibles, where, when you bring these companies in, they put a half a dozen people in a lab, they poach the best talent and they poach the IP, and then you lose all the wealth effects,”....“Don’t get me wrong. I believe in open economies. They’re going to come here anyway; I just don’t know why we give them the best talent, give them our IP, give them tax credits for the research, give them the red carpet for government relations, don’t allow them to pay taxes, and then have all the wealth flow out of the country.”...if small countries such as Canada make a point of prioritizing the intangible economy, there are huge opportunities. He pointed to Israel, Finland and Singapore as examples of how smart policies and specialization can reap big rewards.

“I could literally see enormously powerful positions for Canada if we choose the right places. I mean, there are some obvious ones: value added in the food business, and precision data and IP in agriculture; certainly in energy extraction and mining, which are data and technology businesses,” he said.

“We actually have enormous opportunities to build the resilience and opportunity,” he said. ”And how can you threaten a country with a picture of a Chevy and 25 per cent tariffs when you’ve built these kinds of very powerful innovation infrastructures that you can’t stop with a tariff because they move with the click of a mouse?”
agriculture  branch_plants  Canada  data  digital_economy  energy  FDI  Finland  food  GoC  industrial_economy  IP_retention  intangibles  intellectual_property  Israel  Jim_Balsillie  mining  policymakers  property_rights  protocols  Singapore  talent  technology  wealth_effects 
november 2018 by jerryking
Firms That Bossed Agriculture for a Century Face New Threat: Farmers - WSJ
August 15, 2018 | WSJ | By Jacob Bunge

On any given day, Cargill’s global network may handle up to 20% of the world’s food supply, company officials estimate. Crops like corn, soybeans, wheat and canola remain the fuel for much of the empire.

“It’s the root of the Cargill company,” said Marcel Smits, Cargill’s chief financial officer. Still, he said, “it’s clear that everybody in the industry has had a difficult time over the past few years.”

Among the shifts: low crop prices, farmers with more capacity to store their grain and competition for crops from livestock operations and ethanol plants. Venture capital-backed startups are developing services that scan a wider range of grain buyers or connect farmers directly with food makers.

From 2012 to 2017, Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s ADM -0.33% profits in its grain merchandising and handling division fell 39%. Profits from Bunge Ltd.’s BG -0.26% similar agribusiness division dropped 76%. Cargill’s annual profits fell three out of those years, and the company has pointed to struggles in its own grain business as a factor......

A deeper technology effort is advancing inside Cargill’s corporate campus west of Minneapolis, where Justin Kershaw, the company’s chief information officer, is overseeing a multimillion-dollar investment in data science. The company is hiring technicians and building a “digital labs” unit that can knit together satellite imagery, weather-sensor data and artificial intelligence to get an early read on creeping droughts and places where foodstuffs may run short, he said.

Cargill expects the data-crunching unit to show how the company can run its own trading and logistics operations more profitably, Mr. Kershaw said. But Cargill also will use it to develop crop-planning and futures-market services for farmers.
ADM  agriculture  Bunge  Cargill  commodities  consolidation  grains  farming  threats  food_crops  informational_advantages 
august 2018 by jerryking
Commodity trading enters the age of digitisation
July 9, 2018 | Financial Times | by Emiko Terazono.

Commodity houses are on the hunt for data experts to help them gain an edge after seeing their margins squeezed by rivals......commodity traders are seeking ways of exploiting their information to help them profit from price swings.

“It is really a combination of knowing what to look for and using the right mathematical tools for it,” ........“We want to be able to extract data and put it into algorithms,” .......“We then plan to move on to machine learning in order to improve decision-making in trading and, as a result, our profitability.” The French trading arm is investing in people, processes and systems to centralize its data — and it is not alone.

“Everybody [in the commodity world] is waking up to the fact that the age of digitisation is upon us,” said Damian Stewart at headhunters Human Capital.

In an industry where traders with proprietary knowledge, from outages at west African oilfields to crop conditions in Russia, vied to gain an upper hand over rivals, the democratisation of information over the past two decades has been a challenge......the ABCDs — Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Company — all recording single-digit ROE in their latest results. As a consequence, an increasing number of traders are hoping to increase their competitiveness by feeding computer programs with mountains of information they have accumulated from years of trading physical raw materials to try and detect patterns that could form the basis for trading ideas.......Despite this new enthusiasm, the road to electronification may not come easily for some traders. Compared to other financial and industrial sectors, “they are coming from way behind,” said one consultant.

One issue is that some of the larger commodities traders face internal resistance in centralising information on one platform.

With each desk in a trading house in charge of its profit-and-loss account, data are closely guarded even from colleagues, said Antti Belt, head of digital commodity trading at Boston Consulting Group. “The move to ‘share all our data with each other’ is a very, very big cultural shift,” he added.

Another problem is that in some trading houses, staff operate on multiple technology platforms, with different units using separate systems.[JCK: one Don Valentine's criterion for making an investment: "Are there great installations of incompatibility that need to be linked?"]

Rather than focusing on analytics, some data scientists and engineers are having to focus on harmonising the platforms before bringing on the data from different parts of the company.
ADM  agribusiness  agriculture  algorithms  artificial_intelligence  Bunge  Cargill  commodities  data_scientists  digitalization  food_crops  grains  incompatibilities  informational_advantages  legacy_tech  Louis_Dreyfus  machine_learning  office_politics  pattern_recognition  traders 
july 2018 by jerryking
Droughts, storms and global demand tests America’s love affair with avocado - Lack of guac
Jan 25th 2018 | NEW YORK

America’s enthusiasm for avocados may be dented, however, by soaring prices. The wholesale price for a case of 48 avocados peaked at $83.75 in September, up from $34.45 a year before....Supply shortfalls, brought about by droughts, storms and wildfires in California, Chile and Mexico, help to explain the jump. Production in California dropped by 44% in 2017. Harvests in Mexico that year were off by 20%. Labour strikes in the country further reduced supply.

Growing global demand is also pushing up prices. Both Chile and Peru have concluded trade agreements with China, eliminating tariffs on their avocado exports. Peru’s avocado sales to China, although small in volume compared with Chile’s and Mexico’s, surged by 3,700% in 2016. Other countries, including Canada and Japan, have also worked up their appetite, raising aggregate imports by 32% between 2014 and 2016.

Raising production will be tricky. This is because avocados are a fussy plant to grow...Salinity levels need to be just right, the slope of the terrain not too steep and temperatures stable. Erratic weather conditions can easily kill the crop.
agriculture  economics  food  guacamole  recipes  avocados  salsa_chutney_relish_pickle  Chipotle 
february 2018 by jerryking
How Glencore AG became a giant in the global agriculture trade - The Globe and Mail
ERIC REGULY
ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, MAY 03, 2017

Interested in acquisitions, Glencore AG has accumulated an extensive network of grain assets around the world, and has no plans of stopping
Eric_Reguly  Glencore  soybeans  CPPIB  Argentina  ADM  Bunge  Cargill  Louis_Dreyfus  oilseeds  Viterra  agriculture  growth  opportunities  Rotterdam  grains  logistics  storage  transportation  trading  agribusiness  supply_chains  Marc_Rich 
may 2017 by jerryking
Private equity firm offers farmers relief
Joelle Faulkner may have grown up on a dairy farm, but she never thought that she would end up in the agriculture business.She studied at Oxford, Stanford and the University of Western Ontario. She
private_equity  Rhodes  farming  women  agriculture  Oxford  UWO  venture_capital  Joelle_Faulkner 
april 2016 by jerryking
Ontario Tender Fruit Lab
October- December 2014

Found by Googling "challenges import exotic fresh produce ontario"
Ontario  fruits  fresh_produce  branding  organic  agribusiness  agriculture  farming  retailers  supermarkets  grocery  MaRS  sustainability  challenges  problems  solutions  farmland  local 
august 2015 by jerryking
The COST of FREEDOM
November 28, 2014 | Report on Business Magazine | JAKE MACDONALD
farming  agriculture  agribusiness  grains 
july 2015 by jerryking
Wiping out California’s almond industry won’t fix the water crisis - The Globe and Mail
OMAR EL AKKAD
Wiping out California’s almond industry won’t fix the water crisis
SUBSCRIBERS ONLY
PORTLAND, ORE. — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Apr. 21 2015, 11:08 AM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Apr. 21 2015,
California  droughts  water  scarcity  farming  agriculture  water_footprints  almonds  Omar_el_Akkad 
april 2015 by jerryking
AGRI-TREND Blog: BOOK RELEASE: The Agriculture Manifesto By Robert Saik - AGRI-TREND®
THE AGRICULTURE MANIFESTO
Author: By Robert D. Saik, PAg, CAC - CEO, Agri-Trend Inc., Posted: 2014-05-20
books  agriculture  trends  farming 
august 2014 by jerryking
Citizen Walmart | Harper's Magazine
July 2012 issue
Citizen Walmart
The retail giant’s unlikely romance with small farmers
By Dan Halpern
agriculture  farming  smallholders  sustainability  Wal-Mart 
august 2014 by jerryking
Clare Hasler-Lewis on the Future of Agriculture - WSJ
By CLARE HASLER-LEWIS
July 7, 2014

I also see a steady stream of new farming technologies, practices and ideas that are increasing our ability to use limited resources efficiently—particularly water. And that promises a future agriculture that can feed the world, sustainably, for generations to come.

Smart Winery
Capturing, recycling and reusing water will become the rule rather than the exception in food production and processing. Processing the food we eat every day makes up 50% of our total water footprint. It is not difficult to imagine most consumer products of the future bearing a "Water Footprint" rating.

A glimpse of that water-efficient future is already visible at the University of California, Davis, where my colleagues recently opened the world's only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-certified winery, brewery and food-processing facility.
agriculture  farming  future  water  scarcity  water_footprints  food 
august 2014 by jerryking
Greenhouse Flower and Plant Production
Reference: 2006 and 2011 Census of Agriculture, Statistics Canada


Author :   Siva Mailvaganam - Statistician/OMAFRA
Last Reviewed :   15 July 2014
census  agriculture  Statistics_Canada  statistics 
august 2014 by jerryking
Developing a Farm Based Traceability System
By Wythe Morris, Extension Agent, Commercial Horticulture
Virginia Cooperative Extension
farming  agriculture  howto  traceability 
august 2014 by jerryking
White House to Begin $10 Billion Rural Investment Fund - NYTimes.com
By ALEXANDRA STEVENSON JULY 24, 2014

The White House Rural Council will announce plans on Thursday to start a $10 billion investment fund that will give pension funds and large investors the opportunity to invest in agricultural projects. Those include wastewater systems, energy projects and infrastructure development in rural America.

“We’re the eHarmony.com of infrastructure and business investment,”...The move comes as pension funds and institutional investors, faced with few investment opportunities that yield high returns in the face of low interest rates, have begun to shift large amounts of money into less traditional investments that promise bigger returns like hedge funds and private equity firms.
farmland  agriculture  agribusiness  rural  alternative_investments  private_equity  infrastructure  investing  energy  wastewater-treatment  institutional_investors  pension_funds 
july 2014 by jerryking
Sponsor Generated Content: 4 Industries Most in Need of Data Scientists
June 16, 2014 12:00 am ET
4 Industries Most in Need of Data Scientists
NARRATIVESby WSJ. Custom Studios for SAS

Agriculture
Relying on sensors in farm machinery, in soil and on planes flown over fields, precision agriculture is an emerging practice in which growing crops is directed by data covering everything from soil conditions to weather patterns to commodity pricing. “Precision agriculture helps you optimize yield and avoid major mistakes,” says Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, a think tank in Washington, D.C. For example, farmers traditionally have planted a crop, then applied fertilizer uniformly across entire fields. Data models allow them to instead customize the spread of fertilizer, seed, water and pesticide across different areas of their farms—even if the land rolls on for 50,000 acres.

Finance
Big data promises to discover better models to gauge risk, which could minimize the likelihood of scenarios such as the subprime mortgage meltdown. Data scientists, though, also are charged with many less obvious tasks in the financial industry, says Bill Rand, director of the Center for Complexity in Business at the University of Maryland. He points to one experiment that analyzed keywords in financial documents to identify competitors in different niches, helping pinpoint investment opportunities.

Government
Government organizations have huge stockpiles of data that can be applied against all sorts of problems, from food safety to terrorism. Joshua Sullivan, a data scientist who led the development of Booz Allen Hamilton’s The Field Guide to Data Science, cites one surprising use of analytics concerning government subsidies. “They created an amazing visualization that helped you see the disconnect between the locations of food distribution sites and the populations they served,” Sullivan says. “That's the type of thing that isn't easy to see in a pile of static reports; you need the imagination of a data scientist to depict the story in the data.”

Pharma
Developing a new drug can take more than a decade and cost billions. Data tools can help take some of the sting out, pinpointing the best drug candidates by scanning across pools of information, such as marketing data and adverse patient reactions. “We can model data and prioritize which experiments we take [forward],” Sullivan says. “Big data can help sort out the most promising drugs even before you do experiments on mice. Just three years ago that would have been impossible. But that's what data scientists do—they tee up the right question to ask.”
drug_development  precision_agriculture  farming  data_scientists  agriculture  massive_data_sets  data  finance  government  pharmaceutical_industry  product_development  non-obvious  storytelling  data_journalism  stockpiles 
june 2014 by jerryking
Schumpeter: Digital disruption on the farm
May 24th 2014 | | The Economist |From the print edition

Its story begins in 2006 with a Silicon Valley startup, the Climate Corporation. Set up by two former Google employees, it used remote sensing and other cartographic techniques to map every field in America (all 25m of them) and superimpose on that all the climate information that it could find. By 2010 its database contained 150 billion soil observations and 10 trillion weather-simulation points...The Climate Corporation planned to use these data to sell crop insurance. But last October Monsanto bought the company for about $1 billion—one of the biggest takeovers of a data firm yet seen. Monsanto, the world’s largest hybrid-seed producer, has a library of hundreds of thousands of seeds, and terabytes of data on their yields. By adding these to the Climate Corporation’s soil- and-weather database, it produced a map of America which says which seed grows best in which field, under what conditions.
disruption  farming  Monsanto  agriculture  Climate_Corporation  massive_data_sets  digital_disruption 
may 2014 by jerryking
Putting More Stock in Agricultural R&D
March-April 2013 | THE FUTURIST | Rick Docksai.

Praxis Strategy Group
agriculture  innovation  farming  R&D  sub-Saharan_Africa 
may 2014 by jerryking
From bushel to bread: How Canada’s wheat feeds the world - The Globe and Mail
ERIC ATKINS
STANDARD, ALTA. — The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, May. 17 2014,
grains  farming  agriculture 
may 2014 by jerryking
The Triumph of the Family Farm
CHRYSTIA FREELAND | JUN 13 2012 - Chrystia Freeland - The Atlantic - Chrystia Freeland - The Atlantic

In 2010, of all the farms in the United States with at least $1 million in revenues, 88 percent were family farms, and they accounted for 79 percent of production. Large-scale farmers today are sophisticated businesspeople who use GPS equipment to guide their combines, biotechnology to boost their yields, and futures contracts to hedge their risk. They are also pretty rich.

“It definitely is not just your father,” Jason Henderson, the vice president and branch executive of the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, told me. Henderson is essentially the Fed’s top analyst of the agricultural economy. “In the U.S. and Canada in 2010 and 2011,” he said, “farm incomes have been booming. U.S. net farming incomes rose more than 20 percent in each of those years. Farmers are flush with cash.”...Big Money has noticed these trends, and is beginning to pile in. “We are seeing a tremendous uptick in allocations and interest in farmland,” says Chris Erickson of HighQuest Partners, an agricultural consultancy and investor. Erickson told me that big institutional investors—pension funds, insurance companies—have recently been making investments in farmland ranging from “the several hundred millions to the billions.” Erickson said this broad interest is new, and is driven by the fact that “the fundamentals are changing dramatically.”

Jim Rogers, who co-founded the legendary hedge fund Quantum with George Soros, told me he believes farming is “one of the most exciting professions” in the world—and that the recent boom is likely to continue for a long time. “Throughout history, we’ve had long periods when the financial sectors were in charge,” he said, “but we’ve also had long periods when the people who have produced real goods were in charge—the farmers, the miners … All of you people who got M.B.A.s made mistakes, because the City of London and Wall Street are not going to be great places to be in the next two or three decades. It’s going to be the people who produce real goods.”...Most encouragingly, the agricultural boom shows that globalization really is a two-way street, and not just for the geniuses at Apple and Goldman Sachs. The rising global middle class wants hamburgers—which is where farmers come in—but it also wants hundreds of other middle-class comforts, and as it grows richer, it will be able to afford more of them. Helping to fill these wants is where many of the rest of us should look for opportunity. And you don’t have to work for a corporate behemoth or have a venture capitalist on your speed dial to take advantage of the changing world economy. One of the most surprising aspects of the farm story is that its heroes are self-employed entrepreneurs, albeit ones who own a lot of land.
prosperity  farming  agriculture  Chrystia_Freeland  precision_agriculture  sophisticated  farmland  private_equity  agribusiness  innovation  investors 
may 2014 by jerryking
Why some see big potential in tiny farms - The Globe and Mail
Doug Saunders

Oxford, England — The Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, Apr. 12 2014,

TechnoServe, a long-established Washington-based non-profit whose 1,400 employees provide technical assistance to small developing-world farmers....Those small farmers don’t produce much food in part because they can’t afford to buy decent seeds and fertilizer. They can’t afford seeds or fertilizer because they can’t borrow money based on their future crop sales. And, Mr. Masha notes, that’s because lending them money can be so expensive: Interest rates on tiny loans are already, by definition, very high; add to that the cost of servicing loans across regions, and the considerable cost of hedging those loans against volatile developing-world currencies, and, he says, “you’ve priced them right out of the credit market.”

Banks and micro-credit agencies are also reluctant to lend because small farmers often have no collateral: Property ownership is ambiguous and few countries have small-claims courts to deal with defaults. (Brazil, an exception, owes a lot of its development success to the creation of such institutions.)

While the potential in these farms is huge, few want to take the risk of building agricultural supply and value chains in the developing world. Such investments take many years to generate returns, which tend to be very modest – rendering them uninteresting to corporations and venture capitalists, but increasingly appealing to Chinese state enterprises and a few people with local knowledge.
smallholders  farming  agriculture  size  scaling  Doug_Saunders  TechnoServe  poverty  tacit_data  supply_chains  value_chains  fertilizers  seeds  SOEs  China  interest_rates  microfinance  microlending  property_ownership  developing_countries  institutions 
april 2014 by jerryking
Big Data Comes to the Farm, Sowing Mistrust - WSJ.com
Feb. 25, 2014 | WSJ | By Jacob Bunge.

Some farmers have discussed aggregating data on their own so they could decide what information to sell and at what price. Other farmers are joining forces with smaller technology companies that are trying to keep agricultural giants from dominating the prescriptive-planting business.

The owner of one small company, Steve Cubbage of Prime Meridian LLC, says his Nevada, Mo., company's independence from the seed, machinery and chemical industry "adds credibility," giving farmers an alternative with "their overall best interests in mind."
massive_data_sets  farming  agriculture  Monsanto  DuPont  Dow_Chemical  data_driven 
february 2014 by jerryking
Buzz off
January 31, 2014 | Report on Business Magazine | David Berman
With bees in trouble, could there be a day without almonds?
agriculture  farming  honeybees  food  agribusiness  pollination 
february 2014 by jerryking
Silicon Valley Big Data Startup Bought for $930M by ... Monsanto? -
October 2, 2013 Liz Gannes - News - AllThingsD Liz Gannes - News - AllThingsD.

Climate Corporation had built a network of insurance sellers for both crop insurance and weather insurance, and offered Web and mobile tools for farmers so they could make decisions about how to do their work. It has thousands of customers with many millions of acres in the U.S.
Monsanto  Climate_Corporation  Silicon_Valley  analytics  farming  agriculture  crop_insurance  weather  insurance 
january 2014 by jerryking
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