‘Everything we do is based on knowledge and IP’: How AgriFORCE wants to ‘change the game’ in ag tech

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Acquisitive AgriFORCE wants to re-think the future of agricultural production globally / Pic: GettyImages-Hirioshi Watanabe
Acquisitive AgriFORCE wants to re-think the future of agricultural production globally / Pic: GettyImages-Hirioshi Watanabe

Related tags ag tech CEA

Tech consultancy AgriFORCE is expanding its business through a spate of M&A including the recent deals to take control of European ag tech innovators Deroose Plans and Delphy. AgriFORCE says it wants to ‘change the game’ in ag tech through its innovation expertise. We spoke to CEO Ingo Mueller to learn more about the latest developments and what they mean for the future of food.

Food security is facing multiple stressors that are pushing systems of production to the limit. Temperatures are reaching record breaking highs around the world and water availability is under pressure, meaning the ag industry is being forced to re-evaluate how they use their resources to safeguard against extreme weather events. All the while, food producers have to balance the need for growing more and expanding yields. Innovation and the development of new technological approaches in the agricultural sector are critical, underpinning the agricultural industry’s ability to respond to climate challenges.

AgriFORCE is an ag tech company that wants to help producers understand innovation opportunities and leverage R&D. It is focused on building an integrated platform that combines the best technology and IP to provide solutions that drive sustainable crops and the production of nutritious food for people around the world.

“The quality and quantity of food we depend on are at risk—from weather extremes and water scarcity to supply chain dysfunction and war. At AgriFORCE, we’re trying to solve these challenges by producing more nutritious, sustainable food at scale, that is also economically viable, through breakthrough approaches. The endgame is improving yields, plant health, and better standard operating procedures and approaches to improving agriculture and floriculture as an industry,”​ chief executive Ingo Mueller told FoodNavigator.

M&A strategy focuses on IP and integrated solutions

The Vancouver-based company looks at solutions in three ways. First, Mueller said, it is important to avoid piecemeal solutions and focus on integrated responses to these issues. As a business, the group is looking at holistic solutions across all aspects of cultivation including the crops themselves as well as operations, facilities, systems, and environment. “The industry is fragmented, and we recognize that without a united approach, we are rapidly approaching food-security risks, even in the world’s most bountiful places,”​ the ag tech expert warned.

These answers need to be based on science and deep agricultural knowledge. Mueller believes that research coming out of the Netherlands, in particular, is generating new science-based ways of thinking about the issues facing agricultural production. He describes the country as a ‘global powerhouse in agriculture innovation’, noting that it is a major agricultural exporter ‘despite its size and geography’. “That’s because historically businesses, guilds and government chose to operate in an open-source environment to combine solutions and innovate through shared research, knowledge, and problem-solving.  Recently, there have been many cases of large investments in indoor ag in the United States and elsewhere -- particularly in terms of land, facilities, technology -- that lack the knowledge of how to actually operate and deliver. The result is that performance and yields of these facilities do not live up to expectations.”

AgriFORCE is currently in the process of acquiring Netherlands-based consultancy firm Delphy.​ Mueller said that the insight the group can offer in CEA will be an important advantage moving forward. “​Controlled environment agriculture, or CEA, requires implementation know-how and education – which is where our consultancy business, Delphy, is a huge asset,”​ we were told.

“Through Delphy, our customers fall into three primary categories: growers and operators of indoor and field agriculture, from floriculture to vegetables and fruits; governments driving agriculture advancements; and ag tech companies testing and developing new solutions in AI, digital solutions, robotics, lighting, growing systems and fertigation. Through the combined expertise and knowledge of Delphy consultants and AgriFORCE experts, we are also able to provide feasibility studies, operations advice, and training for the future generations of growers and operators.”

Finally, Mueller emphasized, AgriFORCE is focused on supporting innovation in ag tech by developing intellectual property assets. “We’re putting a renewed emphasis on intellectual property and its development, acquisition, and commercialization. At AgriFORCE, we’re combining our own extensive knowledge, IP, and technology and creating a platform for others’ solutions to be incorporated.”

Creating ‘AgTEch 2.0’

Delphy isn’t the only newcomer to the AgriFORCE stable. Earlier this year, the ag tech company revealed it had entered a letter of intent with another European  Deroose Plants, one of the largest tissue culture propagation companies in the world with a leadership position in horticulture, plantation crops, and fruit and vegetables. The deal, which values Deroose at around US$69m, is the next in AgriFORCE’s ‘vision to become a world leader in delivering next-generation foods and plant products for businesses and consumers’, according to Mueller.

“Deroose’s specific crop IP enables increased yields per hectare for crops such as rubber, palm and banana. This is particularly important where arable land is scarce and restricted and with governments no longer allowing additional land to be made available for these crops,”​ the CEO reflected.

The acquisition strategy focuses squarely on AgriFORCE’s ambition to build its knowledgebase in core areas. “Through our Delphy Consultancy, the in-progress acquisition of DeRoose Plants, our own IP in the next generation of greenhouse as well as our licensing rights for Radical Clean Solutions Hydroxyls devices for controlled environment agriculture and food manufacturing facilities, we are creating an integrated ag tech company – what we call “AgTech 2.0” – to drive and provide solutions for a more sustainable and safe system of plants and food production and processing. Via our CEA and crop IP acquisition in process, we aim to use significantly less land, water, and energy while generating stronger yields.

“Further, with our patent-pending un(Think) Foods grain and pulses processing IP, we aim to bring to market an array of grain-based and pulse-based flours and products that maximize the nutrition of the grains and pulses while taking reducing the starch to make more nutritious, better for you products. We recently announced the launch of Awakened Flour, a product of our (un)Think brand, which is the first step in bringing to market a series of superior products, with pancake mixes, breads, pastas, and more currently under consideration and development. AgriFORCE’s (un)Think products provide consumers and food companies with new products and ingredients that redefine nutrition and taste.”

AgriFORCE’s portfolio of ag-tech solutions

Sharing examples of how AgriFORCE’s unique services are ‘delivering on our goal of providing more nutritious, sustainable food at scale’ Mueller provided a rundown of the groups business areas, which include:

  • Delphy​: An agriculture and floriculture consulting company with ‘decades of experience, hundreds of experts, and thousands of clients worldwide’.
  • DeRoose​: A ‘leader’ in ornamental plants through advanced tissue culture and plant propagation. “Their proprietary crop IP in plantation crops like rubber and palm oil will redefine sustainability with faster maturing and higher yield trees,”​ the chief executive predicted.
  • ForceGH+:​ “Our next generation Greenhouse, captures the power of the sun and the full spectrum of UV light with a revolutionary design that allows for lower energy use and superior yields.”
  • Radical Clean Solutions Hydroxyls Device​: Allows for the natural elimination of pathogens (viruses, bacteria and molds) as well as VOCs in greenhouses and food manufacturing facilities.
  • Un(Think) Foods​: “Aims at un(thinking) our traditional understanding of providing and processing wheat and other grains and pulses flours,”​ Mueller explained. “These alternatives provide superior fibre and protein nutrition while significantly reducing starches, answering consumers’ quest for healthy products that are nutritious and don’t compromise on taste, quality or texture.”

“What makes us stand out is that everything we do is based on knowledge and IP, to drive value in a basic commodity market of foods and plants. The AgriFORCE model brings the very best of ag together to benefit customers, consumers, and communities – whether it’s through high-tech grow houses for high-value crops, advanced tissue culture propagation, innovative systems that destroy pathogens in real-time, or hands-on consulting from the world’s best agriculture consultants. It all ties back to our purpose, which is to positively transform farm, food and family, every day, everywhere.”

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