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Former PoCo MLA touts $64M investment to 'transform commercial agriculture' – The Tri-City News

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A former Port Coquitlam MLA’s company focusing on healthy growth in agriculture can tout some healthy investment growth of its own this week.

Terramera Inc., led by Port Moody native Karn Manhas, revealed today (Jan. 28) it has landed an additional US$3.5 million for its Series B round, which had already secured US$45 million last year (approximately C$64 million).

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Terramera’s flagship chemistry technology, Actigate, can be licensed to producers of both natural and synthetic pesticides to improve the efficiency, uptake and performance of the active ingredients in crop protection products.The technology would allow farmers to increase the performance of materials sprayed on agriculture while reducing the overall amount required. The company’s goal is to reduce synthetic chemicals used in agriculture globally by 80% by 2030.

“Terramera has the technology platform and expertise to transform commercial agriculture in systematic ways,” ArcTern managing partner Tom Rand said in a statement. “Their strategy to scale their technology to have the greatest impact will lead to healthier plants and soil, which will drive improved farm productivity and the potential to sequester carbon in well-managed soils. That’s really exciting and why we invested.”

Terramera is among the second wave of companies to land funding from the Vancouver-based Digital Technology Supercluster initiative. The initiative, which is open to organizations with a presence in Canada, sees non-profits, post-secondary institutions, and large and small enterprises partnering to develop commercial products. The consortia must be willing to put up investments of their own before being able to tap into supercluster funding backed by Ottawa.

Terramera’s supercluster endeavour sees it collaborating with eight organizations, including Compression AI and Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, on the Precision Agriculture to Improve Crop Health project.

The investment, Manhas told The Tri-City News last fall, “will be instrumental to fulfilling our mission of using technology to unlock the intelligence in nature, ensuring an Earth that thrives and provides for everyone.”

It’s a lofty ambition for a quest that first started taking shape in a lab that was more Breaking Bad than Silicon Valley that Manhas had cobbled together in the basement of the Port Coquitlam home where he was living at the time. In fact, he said, the assemblage of glass beakers, test tubes and pipes was so rudimentary, it raised the eyebrows of utility workers who had to access the basement when they were trying to repair a water main that had burst under the street out front.

While Manhas said he originally developed the formula to help natural pesticides work better, discussions with investors for initial financing in 2016 convinced him his product could also have a positive impact if it were also integrated into treatments with synthetic chemicals because less would have to be used.

Manhas said biotechnologies like Actigate have the potential to make organic agriculture more viable and profitable for farmers while reducing the environmental harm caused by synthetic pesticides.

“The value of that is a more efficient system,” he said, adding that efficiency might just be able to make the agriculture industry more regenerative rather than degenerative, ensuring the longterm viability of soils and the health of crops they support.

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“We’re in a really interesting time, to be able to use data and technology to solve some of the biggest problems we have.”

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Many employers investing less than 5 per cent on digital tech: survey – Canadian HR Reporter

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Companies are overlooking quick wins that are comparatively easy to implement, such as cloud services, while others struggle to achieve the integration needed to realize the full potential of data, says KPMG. As well, many seem to have dismissed the opportunities and insights that big data can offer. The survey findings revealed that only one in five (21 per cent) are actively leveraging data analytics.

Robotics and M2M capabilities can speed up production, while IoT facilitates predictive maintenance, reduced downtime and costs and it provided greater visibility into production and delivery, says the report.

“Companies should already be investing in IoT-compliant technology, especially to connect their legacy equipment,” says KPMG’s Yvon Audette, COO, management consulting services. “It’s fast becoming a baseline requirement for companies in these capital asset-intensive sectors; those that fail to invest in IoT will quickly fall behind.”

Although slow in the past to invest in digital technologies, close to half of the industrial companies surveyed by KPMG planned to implement intelligent automation and IoT technologies within the next three years.

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SEC reportedly probing Altria's Juul investment – CNBC

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Juul brand vape cartridges are pictured for sale at a shop in Atlanta, Georgia.

Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into Altria’s investment in e-cigarette start-up Juul Labs, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Regulators are examining whether the tobacco company sufficiently disclosed to shareholders the risks when it invested $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul in 2018, sources told the Journal. Altria’s stake valued the start-up at $38 billion.

Altria took a $4.1 billion impairment charge for its investment in Juul in January. The company said the charge reflects the growing legal charges against Juul and the expectation that the number of lawsuits will only increase. Juul is being sued by multiple states for its role in promoting vaping among teens and children.

Juul and Altria have both responded to subpoenas from the SEC, sources told the Journal. The e-cigarette maker turned over documents to the SEC that included correspondence with Altria and financial projections that it gave to Altria prior to its decision to invest in Juul, one person said to the Journal.

When reached by CNBC, Altria declined to comment. Juul did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Read more about the investigation in the Journal’s report.

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Investors in LatAm get bitten by the hotel investment bug as Ayenda raises $8.7 million

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Some of Latin America’s leading venture capital investors are now backing hotel chains.

In fact, Ayenda, the largest hotel chain in Colombia, has raised $8.7 million in a new round of funding, according to the company.

Led by Kaszek Ventures, the round will support the continued expansion of Ayenda’s chain of hotels in Colombia and beyond. The hotel operator already has 150 hotels operating under its flag in Colombia and has recently expanded to Peru, according to a statement.

Financing came from Kaszek Ventures and strategic investors like Irelandia Aviation, Kairos, Altabix and BWG Ventures.

The company, which was founded in 2018, now has more than 4,500 rooms under its brand in Colombia and has become the biggest hotel chain in the country.

Investments in brick and mortar chains by venture firms are far more common in emerging markets than they are in North America. The investment in Ayenda mirrors big bets that SoftBank Group has made in the Indian hotel chain Oyo and an investment made by Tencent, Sequoia China, Baidu Capital and Goldman Sachs, in LvYue Group late last year, amounting to “several hundred million dollars”, according to a company statement.

“We’re seeking to invest in companies that are redefining the big industries and we found Ayenda, a team that is changing the hotel’s industry in an unprecedented way for the region”, said Nicolas Berman, Kaszek Ventures partner.

Ayenda works with independent hotels through a franchise system to help them increase their occupancy and services. The hotels have to apply to be part of the chain and go through an up to 30-day inspection process before they’re approved to open for business.

“With a broad supply of hotels with the best cost-benefit relationship, guests can travel more frequently, accelerating the economy,” says Declan Ryan, managing partner at Irelandia Aviation.

The company hopes to have more than 1 million guests in 2020 in their hotels. Rooms list at $20 per-night, including amenities and an around the clock customer support team.

Oyo’s story may be a cautionary tale for companies looking at expanding via venture investment for hotel chains. The once high-flying company has been the subject of some scathing criticism. As we wrote:

The New York Times  published an in-depth report on Oyo, a tech-enabled budget hotel chain and rising star in the Indian tech community. The NYT wrote that Oyo offers unlicensed rooms and has bribed police officials to deter trouble, among other toxic practices.

Whether Oyo, backed by billions from the SoftBank  Vision Fund, will become India’s WeWork is the real cause for concern. India’s startup ecosystem is likely to face a number of barriers as it grows to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley.

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