Technology and data are increasingly important in agriculture and firms are aligning themselves for this changing future

Technology and data are increasingly important in agriculture, and firms are aligning themselves for this changing future.

Tech moves in the ag market - Land O'Lakes, Ice Miller

Acquisition of Ceres Inc. by Land O'Lakes offers opportunity to further beef up biotech innovation; new founding member joins group aimed at creating a farmer-focused data cloud.

This week we look at two news items that came across the Farm Industry News desk - one in the world of biotech and the other in the world of data - two key areas of agriculture.

In the biotech world, advances in the precision available for bringing traits into crops to enhance productivity, and other crop factors, is advancing rapidly. Often those advancements come in smaller entrepreneurial and start-up firms with innovators hard at work. That's the case of Ceres Inc., a firm that has developed proprietary tech for multi-gene trait development and other tools.

And now Ceres will be doing that work as part of Land O'Lakes, the big Minnesota cooperative that also owns Geosys and Winfield.

Last week, Land O'Lakes announced it was acquiring Ceres in a transaction valued just over $17 million. When the transaction is finished, Ceres will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O'Lakes and will "complement Forage Genetics International, a Land O'Lakes subsidiary, and bring new advanced plant breeding and biotechnology to FGI's research and development pipeline," according to the release.

FGI, earlier this year, acquired all the commercial rights from its relationship with Monsanto - the two firms developed Roundup Ready Alfalfa and HarvXtra Alfalfa with Roundup Ready technology. HarvXtra is a lower-lignin alfalfa variety.

In the Ceres acquisition release, Chris Policinski, president and CEO, Land O'Lakes, notes: "Through our Forage Genetics International business, Land O'Lakes is interested in providing a holistic forage offering to our customers, including alfalfa, corn silage and forage sorghum. The acquisition brings complementary strengths together, adds new advanced plant breeding and biotechnology to the FGI research and development pipeline and accelerates the process of bringing new forage solutions to existing and new markets."

Ceres had at one time focused on bioenergy crops with its technology, but more recently focused on forages. The company is known for its Blade brand of seed, but has also carved niches in biotech and bioinformatics with tools that help researchers rapidly identify traits for improved crop results.

Land O'Lakes expects to close on the deal by the third quarter of 2016. Learn more about Ceres.

A data alliance

Law firm and intellectual property experts Ice Miller have announced they'll become a founding member of the Agricultural Data Coalition. This new group - announced during Commodity Classic earlier this year - aims to create an independent cloud data system where farmers can put their information and have control at all times.

Other ADC founding members include Agco, American Farm Bureau Federation, Auburn University, CHN Industrial, Crop IMS, Ohio State University, Mississippi State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Purdue University, Raven Industries and Topcon Positioning Group.

In the announcement, Anthony Aaron, partner in Ice Miller's Indianapolis office, and lead on the firm's ADC membership, comments: "Unlocking the potential of farm data is critical to future improvements in production agriculture. With that in mind, it will be important to ensure that ADC is structured to provide a safe and secure platform to store, analyze and make data available to farmers and their trusted research partners."

Ice Miller has experts on data security and privacy and a focused food and agribusiness group too. ADC continues to grow with new members as it develops a new platform for agricultural data. Learn more at agdatacoalition.org.

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