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More Crop Per Drop: Ceres Imaging Completes $25 Million Series B

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More Crop Per Drop: Ceres Imaging Completes $25 Million Series B

Largest-Ever Raise in Agricultural Spectral Imagery and Analytics Sector

OAKLAND, Calif.- Ceres Imaging, an aerial spectral imagery and analytics company, today announced a $25 million Series B funding round with an investment from Insight Venture Partners, with participation from Romulus Capital.

This is the first investment for Insight Venture Partners in the agricultural technology (agtech) sector. The round for Ceres Imaging represents the largest single investment in the agricultural spectral imaging market category to date.

Since its founding, Ceres Imaging has raised some $35 million in venture capital. The current round will advance computer vision and AI development by allowing recruitment of new technical talent, and will fund targeted imagery products for new markets.

“Ceres Imaging is uniquely positioned in the market, with the right team, technology and product offering to help realize sustainable crop yields for farmers, and Insight Venture Partners is thrilled to help them scale in this journey,” said Deven Parekh, Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners.

“Ceres Imaging’s innovative technology solutions allows them to partner with farmers in California, the U.S. Midwest, and Australia to solve the world’s most important agriculture issues. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to Insight Venture Partners’ portfolio, and look forward to helping the team advance farming efficiency across the globe,” said Harley Miller, Vice President at Insight Venture Partners.

Visionary farmers choose Ceres’ imagery products for early warnings of pest and disease and to better utilize water and fertilizer. Ceres’ actionable images have improved yields for growers by tens of tons an acre, and profits by hundreds of dollars an acre. Clients and partners include Olam, The Climate Corporation, Agtegra, and Evergreen FS.

By using proprietary image sensors, computer vision, machine learning, and plant science, the company allows farmers to react to changes in their fields weeks before they can see them with the naked eye. Unlike traditional legacy imagery, like true-color and NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) imagery, Ceres’ spectral imaging products let farmers monitor individual plant water and nutrient content, as well as stress levels. This helps farmers identify disease hotspots and conserve pesticide and fungicide. It also means greater crop yields from scarce water—”more crop per drop”—and cuts down on wasted fertilizer by highlighting plant-level nutrient status.

“Our imagery helps farmers cope with a changing world full of challenges such as climate variability, labor shortages, and depressed markets,” said Ashwin Madgavkar, founder and CEO of Ceres Imaging. “Like the farmers we serve, we know that agriculture is more than a business. Our growers care deeply about their land and about the food they grow. From grain farmers in the Midwest to California vineyards and almond orchards, these farmers are careful with resources, not just for their bottom line, but because they are stewards of the land.”

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G20 to pledge support for robust post-COVID recovery, cash for IMF

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G20 to pledge support for robust post-COVID recovery, cash for IMF 1

By Andrea Shalal and Michael Nienaber

WASHINGTON/BERLIN (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are likely to pledge on Friday to support a robust global recovery and to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the global health crisis.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, will hold a video-conference on Friday and the global response to the unprecedented havoc wreaked by the coronavirus on the economy will top the agenda.

Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting, chaired by Italy, are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, become U.S. president.

“The ministers will talk about the need for fiscal policies for a swift and robust recovery, because they want to avoid the risk of too early a reduction in fiscal support,” one G20 official said.

The meeting comes as the United States is readying a $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus and the European Union has jointly put together already more than 3 trillion euros to keep the economy going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels already at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too — factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic infections, and fourth quarter growth in Japan slowed from the third with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.

“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a second G20 official said.

But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by the then U.S. president, Donald Trump.

The change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 also changed the prospects for more IMF resources and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen backed the idea in a letter to the G20 on Thursday.

Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation valued at $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.

The G20 is also likely to agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington, Michael Nienaber in Berlin and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Writing by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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Car sector seeks more UK government support as output tumbles

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Car sector seeks more UK government support as output tumbles 2

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak should use next week’s budget statement to help boost the car industry’s competitiveness, a trade industry body said on Friday, as production tumbled to its lowest January level since 2009.

Sunak is due to detail how he will further support the economy amid COVID-19 restrictions on March 3.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the furlough scheme that protects jobs should be extended, more support for training was needed and manufacturing investment should be encouraged through reform of the business rates tax.

“Next week’s budget is the chancellor’s (finance minister) opportunity to boost the industry by introducing measures that will support competitiveness, jobs and livelihoods,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.

“We need to secure our medium to long-term future by creating the conditions that will attract battery gigafactory investment and transform the supply chain.”

Output in January fell by 27% year-on-year to 86,052 vehicles, hit by factors including dealership closures during a latest COVID-19 lockdown, international supply chain problems and the change in trading terms with the European Union.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by William Schomberg)

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Exclusive: Portugal sees green hydrogen output by end-2022, $12 billion in investment lined up

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Exclusive: Portugal sees green hydrogen output by end-2022, $12 billion in investment lined up 3

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal will start producing green hydrogen by the end of 2022 and already has private investment worth around 10 billion euros ($12 billion) lined up for eight projects that are expected to move forward, Environment Minister Joao Matos Fernandes said.

He told Reuters in a telephone interview there were also several “pre-contracts for the purchase and assembly of electrolysers” to produce the zero-carbon fuel made by electrolysis out of water using renewable wind and solar energy.

Such hydrogen is more expensive to extract than the heavily polluting conventional method of using heat and chemical reactions to release hydrogen from coal or natural gas, known as brown and grey hydrogen respectively.

Hydrogen is now mostly used in the oil refining industry and to produce ammonia fertilisers, but sectors such as steelmaking, transportation and chemicals are beginning to develop large-scale hydrogen applications to gradually replace fossil fuels as countries try to reduce pollution.

The European Commission has mapped out a plan to scale up green hydrogen projects across polluting sectors to meet a net zero emissions goal by 2050 and become a leader in a market analysts expect to be worth $1.2 trillion by that date.

“By the end of 2022, there will certainly be green hydrogen production in Portugal,” Matos Fernandes said. “Green hydrogen will, over time, allow Portugal to completely change its paradigm and become an energy exporting country.”

He said seven groups had submitted applications under Europe’s IPCEI scheme for common-interest projects to make part of a planned export-oriented “hydrogen cluster” near the port of Sines, from where hydrogen could be shipped to Rotterdam. Total investment there is estimated at some 7 billion euros.

A consortium including Portugal’s main utility EDP, oil company Galp, world’s largest wind turbine maker Vestas, among others, is behind one of the projects.

In Estarreja in north Portugal, local firm Bondalti Chemicals aims to invest 2.4 billion euros in a hydrogen plant.

Altogether, these envisage an installed capacity of over 1,000 megawatts (MW).

Matos Fernandes said Portugal was also negotiating with Spain the construction of a pipeline for renewable gases, including hydrogen, from Sines to France, crossing Spain.

LITHIUM PLANS

Spain and Portugal also want to develop an ambitious cross-border lithium project taking advantage of the geographical proximity of their lithium deposits and aiming to cover the entire value chain from mining to refining, cell and battery manufacturing to battery recycling, he said.

Portugal is already a large producer of low-grade lithium mainly for the ceramics industry, but is preparing to make higher-grade metal used in electric car batteries.

A much-awaited licensing tender for lithium-bearing areas that has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic should take place by the year-end, Matos Fernandes said.

He promised the tender would address environmental concerns by local communities and there would be no lithium mining “at any cost”.

The minister also said Portugal would use its six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union to finalise a landmark law that would make the bloc’s climate targets irreversible and speed up emissions cuts this decade, expecting it to be approved in the first half of 2021.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Andrei Khalip and David Evans)

 

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