Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces Vol. 321
Posted on: January 23rd, 2017



Globally, agriculture consumes 70% of the world’s fresh water resources. This week’s quote comes from the journal article ‘Water limits to closing yield gaps’ and explores the increase in water required to meet the needs of a growing population.

“In regions of the world affected by seasonal or chronic water scarcity, yield gap closure is strongly dependent on irrigation. Global yield gap assessments have often ignored whether the water required to close the yield gap is locally available…We find that, to close the yield gap, human appropriation of freshwater resources for irrigation would have to increase at least by 146%. Most study countries would experience at least a doubling in irrigation requirement, with 71% of the additional irrigation being required by only four crops – maize, rice, soybeans, and wheat. Further, in some countries (e.g., Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen) the total volume of irrigation required for yield gap closure would exceed sustainable levels of freshwater consumption.”


With an increase in live export and a northern meatworks processing buffalo, the Northern Territory Buffalo Industry Council hopes 20,000 head may eventually be harvested and sold each year.

Live exports of buffalo have been slowly increasing over the past few years, with 5,792 buffalo leaving Darwin Port in 2016.

Department of Primary Industry figures show 3,981 buffalo went to Vietnam and 1,212 were exported to Malaysia.
“If we can turn off 20,000 plus animals we are starting to catch up to the natural increase that is happening in the bush,” he said.

Mr Swart said the Buffalo Industry Council has fielded “a lot” of enquires from overseas about boxed buffalo meat.

“We are getting inquiries from the Middle East, China, and Vietnam,” Mr Swart said.

“When these enquires come through to us the first thing we reply is that we can’t compete with the Indian buffalo meat; we are not on the same playing field.

“But they still seem interested in our product, so I do believe we should be able to [be profitable].”

Mr Swart said despite issues with the Vietnam supply chain 2016 was a good year for the industry.

“[2016] was better than 2015 and 2014, so we are happy for that,” Mr Swart said.

“We would like to get [exports] up around 10,000 because we can produce that sort of number for that market.”

However, Mr Swart said for buffalo exports to increase there needed to be consistency in demand. “We have the suppliers that are willing and able, so we just need a stable marketplace that will take [buffalo] on a regular basis,” he said.


Engineered meat is taking on a new flavour as an entrepreneur aims to help people make animal-free meat at home, like brewing beer, by sharing cell cultures

Imagine producing meat at home without killing animals. With a few cells and a keg, the process could be no more complicated than brewing your own beer or pickling vegetables. That’s the vision of Isha Datar, the CEO of New Harvest, a non-profit organisation aiming to create everything from burgers to silk from cell cultures. “It’s like designing a new universe,” she said.

Cultured meat isn’t a new idea but it has largely focused on mass-producing beef and pork. In 2013, the first tasting of a lab-grown burger in London grabbed headlines, but the showpiece cost €300,000 and took a year to create. The taste of the burger was described as “close to meat but not as juicy“. Growing large quantities of meat from cells in a sustainable way is still far off.

One of the biggest problems is producing a thick enough piece of meat. The hamburger created for the press event was made by combining several small lab-grown pieces. Some types of meat may be easier to scale up than others, though. Paul Mozdziak from North Carolina State University and his colleagues, who are working on producing cultured turkey meat, have found that avian muscle cells seem to be able to adjust to different environments more easily than bovine cells, says Datar, so they would be more conducive to home culturing.

Taste is a complicated issue for researchers trying to engineer meat because all different kinds of tissue contribute to flavour. Meat isn’t pure muscle: its fat content is responsible for much of its culinary appeal.

Experimentation will be key. But the first hurdle often faced by enthusiasts is obtaining cells to start the process. At the moment, muscle stem cells are most easily obtained from fresh meat at a slaughterhouse or from live animals – preferably young ones since their stem cells are more plentiful. But harvesting them is hard work.

Datar hopes to change that by making cell lines available for order from lab supply catalogues or by linking up researchers so those with cultures can share them with others, much as people share sourdough starters to make bread. For Datar, “it would be like open-source software. The cells are the code.” Mozdziak thinks that a scaled-up cultured meat prototype could be available in three to five years, but would take longer to appear on supermarket shelves or to join the ranks of DIY food.


This week’s chart comes from AgFunder’s Agtech Investing Mid-year 2016 report and shows the breakdown of H1 2016 agtech investment by sector. During H1 2016, total agtech investment deals raised US$1.8 billion, with deal activity in the sector outperforming the broader venture capital markets.



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