Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 372
Posted on: March 15th, 2018

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The quote for this week is taken from The Bloomberg Commodity Outlook – March 2018, when looking at sector performance the report stated the following:

“Agriculture, the major sector left behind in the two-year commodity recovery, is finally catching up. It’s still prone to similar rally failures of the past five years, though we find differences this time. The potential paradigm shift in U.S. grain production favoring soybeans and allocating more corn to ethanol production than animal feed has established a longer-term price bottom. Representing the majority of agriculture, the grains (led by soybean meal and wheat) top 2018 commodity returns through February.”

AUSTRALIAN BLOCKCHAIN START-UP SECURES INVESTMENT

“Square Peg Capital has invested in Australian blockchain start-up, AgriDigital, in a $5.5 million Series A funding round it said would help expansion plans into North America.

In the global grain industry, provenance and traceability has proved problematic but blockchain can be used to establish a fact at a given point in time by storing a digitised representation of a real-world transaction or process. This can then be trusted by a third party as proof of the history of the asset.

AgriDigital has built a private blockchain for supply chain finance. It has over 1300 users and more than 1.6 million tonnes of grain has been transacted over the cloud-based system since its first deal in December 2016, involving $360 million in grower payments.

Grain traders have also found matching payments with title transfers difficult. By linking these, blockchain can remove counter-party risk that currently sits with growers – and leads to millions of dollars in losses every harvest.

AgriDigital CEO and co-founder Emma Weston said the new funding would help launch the agtech platform in North America and build out a blockchain protocol for the global trade of agri-commodities.
A private family investment office also supported the raising but its identity has not been disclosed.

Ms Weston has been pushing the Reserve Bank to introduce a digital version of the Australian dollar, which could serve as the payment token on the platform and close the loop by allowing value to move across the blockchain, rather than having the payment pushed onto traditional bank rails. The CBH pilot also involved a digital currency element, with AgriDigital minting an “Agricoin” pegged 1:1 to the Australian dollar.

[The CSIRO’s] Data61 said blockchain had the potential “not just to integrate information exchange and improve operational efficiencies across a diverse industry, but also to improve supply chain quality, facilitate provenance of branded goods and reduce cost of regulatory approvals.”

Source: Eyers, James. Financial Review. 26 February 2018.

MARTIAN FARMING – NOT ALL THAT ALIEN

“The soil on Mars was probed, tested and tasted by the Phoenix lander in 2008, after a nine-month journey to the Red Planet.

Fortunately, we have something very similar here on Earth: a basaltic or lava-type soil. A similar variant is even available in most garden centres in the United States, with a little more iron than the Martian soil.

As Mars is further from the sun than Earth, its surfaces gets around 60 per cent less sunlight than the surface of Earth. This environment favouring shade-loving plants was simulated by Dr [Edward] Guinan [Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania] and his students by using a shade-painted greenhouse, which also allowed them to simulate the very dry atmosphere of Mars.

To counteract the dryness, and provide the other essential ingredient for growing plants — water — Dr Guinan said Martian gardeners would need to find and defrost frozen water. The astrobiology students only had to turn a tap, but they found the plants did dry out easily. The Mars atmosphere, mostly carbon dioxide, would suit plants very well.

Lettuce thrived in the Martian-style soil — growing quickly and well. However, Dr Guinan pointed out its limited nutritional value meant it might not be worth growing. The students also managed to grow sweet potatoes, basil, onions, garlic, mint — and even kale. “Kale was especially useful, because it’s very nutritious,” he said.

In Dr Guinan’s classes, one student was fixated on growing hops. The whim was indulged, with surprising results. “Hops grew very well, but it needs to grow up to three metres tall before they flower,” he laughed.

The students didn’t consider that barley was required for their interplanetary brewery cooperative.

But this will be remedied in the second go of this course. So, the race is on to open the first craft brewery on another planet. It’s a nice thought to know that a cold one could be a possibility at the end of the slightly longer Martian day, and made with some locally sourced hops.”

Source: Gorrilla, Buffy. ABC News. 16 February 2018.

CHART OF THE WEEK

In the wake of President Trump’s announced steel and aluminium tariffs the European Union has reviewed its trade with the United States and aims to impose a 25% tariff on a number of key US exports. Included in this ‘tit-for-tat’ levy is roughly EUR1bn (nearly USD1.2bn) of agricultural products. In many respects the retaliatory tariff will affect the regions from which Trump derived much of his support – the agricultural and industrial heartlands. Some of the agricultural products earmarked include corn and orange juice.

JOKE OF THE WEEK