The R-Brief Vol. 4

Grain Markets

Canola prices have been relatively flat throughout the first two weeks of 2016 after failing to break out above $500 CAD/mt at the end of December. Prices currently are trading in $480-485 CAD/mt range. 

Soybean prices dropped below $860USD/bu at the end of the year after failing to break above $900 USD/bu. The first two weeks of 2016 have seen prices rebound slightly, and currently sit around $880 USD/mt.

Wheat prices remain relatively unchanged globally over the course of the last few weeks, and currently sit around $475 USD/bu.

Agriculture in the News

Higher income from a low Loonie and low interest rates will make up for lower commodity prices this year. That's the key takeaway from JP Gervais, head of Farm Credit Canada- who in January issued what has been called a "fearless" forecast for Canadian agriculture in 2016. The forecast lays out what the FCC believes will be the five most significant trends in Canadian agriculture this year. Read more about those trends here

The 68th U.N. General Assembly has declared 2016 the international year of Pulses. "Pulses" are leguminous crops harvested dry for feed, rather than green for food. Peas, lentils, beans, and chickpeas are the most well known examples. The aim of the U.N. is to "heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition". Check out the FAO's website for the initiative here.

A Documentary partly funded by the Canadian government wants the general public to reconsider how they think about GMO. The film, entitled "Licence to farm", is part of a program aimed at pushing farmers and scientists alike to actively stand up for genetically modified food products. So far the video has been controversial. It's been praised as informative by some in the industry, but called out as propaganda by a host of others. Read more about this story, and check out a preview of the documentary here.

Chinese investors just bought 70,000 hectares of Australian farmland. One of the largest wheat farms in Australia is in the process of being sold to a group of Chinese investors. The 70,000 hectare property, located in the wheat belt north of Perth, has been sold for $35 million AUD pending approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board. Read more about this story here, and here.

Holy lettuce, Batman! Brooklyn-based Gotham Greens has built the worlds largest rooftop greenhouse in Chicago that will grow lettuce year-round. The massive 75,000 square foot greenhouse is one of four operated by the company- who tout themselves as the "worldwide pioneer in urban agriculture". Interestingly, unlike other urban farm operations, the Chicago rooftop greenhouse only uses natural light. Read about that story here, and more about Gotham greens here.

You can farm in a shipping container? Freight Farms, which was as founded in Boston in 2010, is one of about half a dozen companies in the United States that is promoting a new way to grow high-turnover, compact crops like lettuce, kale, and mint. Google already has one of their hydroponic containers, aptly called  "leafy green machines", in full operation at their campus in Mountain View, California. Read more about this fascinatingly resourceful idea here.

The USDA has for the first time handed out grants under the multi-departmental National Robotics Initiative. The federal research project, which includes the likes of NASA and the Department of Defence, awarded a combined 3 million USD to three separate agricultural initiatives at the end of 2015, and are already funded for more grants in 2016. Among the  grants, was one awarded to a project that "aims to develop planning algorithms for robots to autonomously operate in complex environments so that (off the shelf robots) can be used in automation tasks involving specialty crops". Read about the program, and the other grants issued, here.

70 billion USD in revenue, by 2024. That's where the global agricultural robotics market is headed, according to the Colorado-based market intelligence firm, Tractica. They forecast that the worldwide market will increase from 3.0 billion in 2015 to 73.9 billion in 2024. The firm cites a multitude of driving factors that will lead to this growth- everything  from availability of farm labour and population trends, to the growth of indoor farming. Driverless tractors will be roughly half of that market, while aerial drones will lead the way in terms of total units shipped. Read more about that report here.


Richard RubensteinComment