HOT IN HERE: These ASX agtech stocks are sowing the seeds for climate change survival
Food & Agriculture
Food & Agriculture
The UN climate talks in Dubai saw countries unite for swift action on building sustainable agriculture and resilient food systems with ASX-listed agtech companies already spearheading these efforts, ready to seize opportunities and contribute significantly to the cause.
The COP28 UAE declaration on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems and climate action promises to scale adaptation activities to reduce the vulnerability of farmers, fisherfolk, and other food producers to the impacts of climate change.
It was announced at COP28 that the global community has mobilised more than US$2.5 billion to support the food-climate agenda.
“This declaration gives a political signal to transform agricultural systems to face climate change, and it is good that many countries have announced their financial contributions to activate it,” UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) deputy director for climate change, biodiversity and environment Zitouni Ould-Dada said.
“It includes important elements to help countries and small farmers by providing technical assistance, supporting innovation, and improving financing.”
Throughout history primary producers stood out, boasting a lengthy track record of innovation, but with climate change along with a growing global population their ability to adapt for sustainability is being tested.
The UN forecasts the global population to grow from currently ~8 billion to 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.
According to the United States Studies Centre “agtech is a nascent industry at the intersection of agriculture and technology”.
It is defined as “products and/or services which contain or are enabled by patented technology into the agriculture value chain”.
The rapidly growing global agtech market value was forecast to triple in size from 2020 to US$45.4 billion by 2026. Here are some ASX companies looking to be a part of the burgeoning global sector and ensure sustainability in agriculture.
ROO is deeply involved in progressing and commercialising solutions aimed at addressing agricultural challenges, including managing plant climates and overcoming water scarcity for irrigation.
The company has multiple patented technologies which enable adjustment of crop root temperatures as required, irrigation of crops with just humidity in the air and heating or cooling of plant substrates in pots, grow bags or soil.
By optimising and stabilising root zone temperatures, ROO’s tech can significantly increase yields, increase growing cycle planting options, improve quality, and mitigate extreme heat and cold stress while significantly reducing energy consumption.
ROO’s zone cooling system was on show at COP28 for conference delegates as part of a greenhouse display by its United Arab Emirates (UAE) customer Silal Food & Technology LLC.
Arid, dry, and humid at the same time, the UAE along with the rest of the Arabian Peninsula have long needed to import food stock from other countries and is considered one of the most climate-vulnerable economies in the world.
CEO Boaz Wachtel told Stockhead the company is seeing growing demand for its root zone temperature optimisation products as an answer for “extreme and volatile weather everywhere”.
“Our RZTO technology targets key pain points in the agriculture supply chain so that early or late planting is possible and significant energy savings are achieved by reducing the use of air/canopy cooling and heating,” he says.
“The end result is that farmers have increased production security and this all translates to more money in the producer’s hands.”
Wachtel says increasingly volatile weather conditions will continue to drive ongoing demand for greenhouse growing solutions.
“Where companies like Roots play a role is by providing technologies that optimise scalable greenhouse farming practices,” he says.
“In addition, I believe that greenhouse growing practices will shift towards production walls that are embedded up to 4-5m in the ground.
“The stable temperatures of the soil at that depth can mitigate more extreme temperatures at surface level and, with the right technology, can use that effect to moderate air temperatures.”
The biomaterial tech company has become well-known for its tree-friendly, trademarked Nullarbor fibre technology, which is working to help ensure sustainability in the fashion industry by turning liquid waste into rayon fibre with minimal environmental impact.
However, the large addressable agricultural market is also presenting NC6 with the opportunity to pursue additional revenue channels.
In September NC6 announced the introduction of its dry rehydratable microbial cellulose material Biollose, the key ingredient in its horticultural products, including MicroGel for commercial microgreen production, and Jelli Grow for home user microgreen kits. Biollose, MicroJell and Jelli Grow are all trademarked.
Executive chairman Dr Wayne Best told Stockhead most of the products currently on the market for seed germination are mineral-based and don’t absorb much water or biodegrade with many also leaving unpleasant residues of grit.
“Biollose can be rehydrated at point of use, swelling over 100x its weight and volume, so it dramatically reduces the cost and carbon footprint of shipping and handling,” he says.
“The large amount of water Biollose absorbs when rehydrated also reduces the need for constant watering.”
He says Biollose is biobased, so 100% biodegradable, leaves no grit and is made from food ingredients so is nontoxic.
Best says Nanollose has always had an interest in the horticulatural space through its early formulation of Jelli Grow.
“Unfortunately, that formulation was 99% water and so shipping and handling was a barrier to commercial uptake,” he says.
“We had been seeking a dry powder formulation for some time without success but then, by chance, some work we were doing on vegan-leather provided the technology we needed and Biollose was born.”
Best says Biollose complements its work with Nullarbor fibre technology and uses the same microbial cellulose raw material.
“It’s a great opportunity to leverage the technologies and relationships we have for our existing microbial cellulose supply chain for another rapidly growing market,” he says.
“It’s also a technically simpler product than our fibre and doesn’t require complex third party processing.
NC6 has supplied vertical farming business Greenspace.com, founded by serial entrepreneur Peter Fox, which is building small community-based farms based in CBD locations.
The company supplies live plants to nearby hotels, restaurants and businesses.
The global vertical farming market size was valued at US$5.1 billion in 2022 and is forecast to be worth US $39.9 billion by 2032.
ELD has been a mainstay of the Australian agriculture and will celebrate 185 years in 2024. Much has changed since it was established in 1839 and in a relatively short Australian farmers have learned how to harness products, practices and technologies that have sky-rocketed productivity levels and enhanced our sustainability.
Australia’s agricultural production value was a record $94 billion in FY23 but is forecasted to fall 17% to $78 billion in FY24 due to expected drier conditions.
ELD head of Thomas Elder Sustainable Agriculture Dave McKeown says to continue to grow productivity and sustainably, the adoption of new agtech solutions is essential for Aussie farmers.
McKeown says ELD has a dedicated innovation division supporting its advisers and farming clients with adopting new technologies, including a research and sustainability external venture focus through Thomas Elder Sustainable Agriculture.
The company has technical specialists collaborating through an agtech committee to guide its activities.
McKeown says its nationwide adviser network has specialist skills in supporting farming clients implement the latest practices and solutions, including through use of integrated farm management software.
“We’re also partnering with companies, including Precision Agriculture, supporting farmers to transition from precision to decision agriculture, enhancing productivity and sustainability on-farm,” he says.
“We have a growing agtech retail category, supporting farmers with access to the latest commercially relevant products from leading Australian and international suppliers.”
ELD also has partnerships with government and research institutions to support research and extension opportunities, including on emerging agtech solutions.
The company is also a leading partner of evokeAG, the southern hemisphere’s largest agrifood innovation event run by AgriFutures Australia.
RLF is a tech-driven plant nutrition company combining plant science with advanced chemistry and manufacturing practices to produce high-quality plant nutrition products for commercial agriculture.
The company’s Plant Proton Delivery Technology (PPD Tech) has been developed to enable farmers to grow higher-yielding, better-quality, and more nutritious produce while supporting the plants’ natural ability to store and reduce atmospheric carbon.
Furthermore, RLF’s Accumulating Carbon in Soil System (ACSS) plays a vital role in capturing and sequestering CO2 by augmenting the organic matter present in soils worldwide.
RLF’s wholly owned subsidiary RLF Carbon has a strategic carbon alliance with the Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA), including an agreement for the prepayment of Australia Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs).
The company recently released a strong Q1 FY23 including cash receipts of $2.7 million, up 22% on pcp and distributor networks strengthened in Vietnam and Cambodia to support continued expansion in Southeast Asia.
RLF has released market guidance of $15-16 million revenue for FY24, up from total revenue of $11.5 million in FY23.
Managing director and CEO Ken Hancock told the market the company is focused on advancing RLF Carbon and looking to capitalise on its first mover advantage in the growing soil carbon market through the use of RLF’s proprietary high quality plant nutrition products and soil carbon generation processes.
“The company is working with Australian growers to develop large-scale carbon projects to respond to the projected ACCU demand increase and ongoing discussions with landholders and potential partners are progressing,” he said in an announcement.
“While the Australian soil carbon industry is in its early stages, the safeguard mechanism for Australia’s 215 largest emitters is expected to drive increasing demand for ACCUs to offset emissionsduring the world’s transition to a low carbon economy, creating robust price scenarios and significant opportunities for RLF Carbon.”
At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies and RLF AgTech are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.