It looks like ‘smashed avo’ is a lucrative business – so much so South American cartels are upping the ante.

Who knew avocados would be much more valuable than drugs?

According to the LA Times, cartels are moving in on the multi-billion-dollar Avocado industry by taking control of farms and clearing protected woodlands to plant crops of what they call “green gold”.

The best part is they call themselves the “Viagras”. I will leave that one well alone…

Here’s what you might have missed on Stockhead this week, but everyone else didn’t, and liked the most.


1. The CSIRO just flagged AI as a $315bn industry — here’s what ASX small caps have been up to in the space

We all knew robots would take over eventually…

The CSIRO reckons that digital tech (including AI) will contribute an extra $315 billion in gross economic value to Australia over the next decade.

That’s a whole lot of dough!

And right now, there’s 27 companies with exposure to AI as part of their business operations.

Over the last 12 months, the cohort has made an average return of 26 per cent. Those gains were driven by 12 winners, while 18 finished in the red.

But not all AI companies are created equal. In fact, one expert we spoke to reckons a degree of scepticism is required when playing the stock-picking game with these companies.

Read on to find out more.


2. These are the ASX mining small caps Stephen Copulos is backing

Our readers always love to know which stocks the prominent investors are backing.

So it’s no surprise this little ditty about Stephen Copulos’ portfolio made it into our top 10 this week.

Copulos, who is best known for his holdings in Myer (ASX:MYR) and New Zealand-listed fast food play Restaurant Brands (NZX:RBD), decided to drop some cash on gold miner Middle Island Resources (ASX:MDI).

But he is also well entrenched in the small cap resources space with stakes in seven companies, not including his most recent cash injection into Middle Island.

And we give you a glimpse into his portfolio.


3. The world is getting windier and there’s just three stocks that want to cash in on that

Apparently, wind is blowing more fiercely around the world, which is good news for the handful of ASX small stocks that rely on wind to make money.

Large scale ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns are making wind speeds faster again and this is expected to continue into the 2020s.

And that means estimated renewable energy generated by wind-farms could increase by more than a third to 3.3 million kilowatt hours by 2024.

But there are just three lonely souls in the game on the ASX – check out who they are.


4. High Voltage: VW and Tesla’s big investments will spark the 2020’s EV offensive

The EV boom is still coming. And when VW and Tesla making good on their promises to drop big dollars on expanding their EV range people sit up and take notice.

With a $US2 billion ($2.9 billion) factory in Shanghai now ready for production, a resurgent Tesla has just announced new plans to build a €4 billion ($6.5 billion) Gigafactory 4 in the Berlin area of Germany

At the same time, VW is celebrating pre-production at its Chinese plant while breaking ground on a $US800m EV manufacturing hub in the US.

But they have a whole lot more plans requiring a lot more dollars. Oh, and we also bring you up to speed on how the ASX small caps battery metals players are performing.


5. Australia and the US aren’t messing around, they’re getting even more serious about critical minerals

Of course everyone loves Keanu Reeves.

Though I have to say John Wick 3 was a little farfetched. I mean really, who gets shot on the roof of a building, falls off said building, slams into walls, fire escapes and other structures on the way down, and lands in an alleyway, only to get up and walk away slightly bruised, bleeding and battered?

Anyway, this one is a bit more realistic – the Oz and US have inked a deal to partner on developing each country’s respective critical minerals projects.

Critical minerals are essential for the production of high-tech, aerospace, defence, renewable energy, agricultural, automotive and telecommunications technologies.

So, pretty important.

And ASX-listed Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) has joined Australia’s critical minerals delegation to Washington DC.

We reveal all here.


6. Barry FitzGerald: These juniors are benefiting from Fortescue’s accelerating exploration effort

Investors are very interested when a big miner sets its sights on the ground junior explorers are playing on.

And Garimpeiro this week highlighted for readers a couple of the smaller guys that have partnered up with one of Australia’s richest men – Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and his Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG).

Find out who the lucky pair are!


7. New Kids on the Block: Do these kaolin explorers have the right stuff?

As a teenage girl I adored New Kids on the Block (probably shouldn’t admit that), though I can’t say I would’ve had a clue about kaolin.

And while NKOTB’s career has long fizzled out, kaolin’s is just taking off.

A handful of ASX-listed kaolin players broke into the market in 2018, intent on disrupting the emergent (and exciting) high purity alumina (HPA) industry.

This now-established gang of HPA-focused small caps are using kaolin clay as a feedstock, which results in super low operating costs compared to traditional producers of HPA.

The main markets here are lithium-ion batteries and LED production.

But kaolin clay also has a wide range of other industrial uses, like paper and paperboard, fiberglass, ceramics and paint.

In 2018, the global industrial kaolin market was estimated to be worth $US5.4 billion (~$8 billion), with estimates of CAGR growth out to 2025 of 8.8 per cent.

And so a new thematic is emerging.


8. Tech: Titomic unveils a 3D-printed titanium rocket, shares take off

Is there anything we can’t 3D print? It seems not, with Titomic (ASX:TTT) this week unveiling a 5.5m long titanium rocket at a trade show in Germany, built with its Kinetic Fusion 3D-printed additive manufacturing process.

Even better, Titomic’s tech is much faster at building a rocket than the traditional manufacturing method.

Titomic said its technology had a build-rate of 30kg per hour, which was well in excess of the 1kg per hour capability of existing melt-based additive manufacturing machines.

As a result, its 5.5m rocket was built in 27.6 hours. And it’s a small-scale version of a 27m rocket being developed by Queensland-based Gilmour Space Technologies.

Sam Jacobs had a chat with Titomic chairman Phil Vafiadis, check out what he had to say.


9. The Australian east coast gas shortage could be coming faster than we think

Just what every aspiring gas producer wants to hear – Australia is going to run short of gas sooner than expected.

While the Australian Energy Market Operator predicts there will be no supply shortage before 2030, Wood Mackenzie reckons it could come as early as 2023.

This could offer explorers the opportunity to bring new supplies of gas into the market, a possibility that the Queensland government has clearly foreseen with its move to set aside more than 30 per cent of its new 30,000sqkm gas acreage release for domestic supply.

So, in short, less gas = higher prices, which is what every aspiring producer wants to justify bringing a project into production (though consumers will be less happy about it).

It may even help projects that have faced opposition be brought online, according to WoodMac.


10. The Secret Broker: When an IPO makes you laugh out loud

This is a doozy! I mean seriously, who splits themselves up into 100,000 shares and offers themselves out to family and friends in an initial public style offering?

Well one guy did, and a hilarious rollercoaster of events ensued.

The one good thing about it, according to TSB, is “if you add Mike to your portfolio, the ASX cannot suspend him for any reason, which seems to be something they are getting ferocious at doing at the moment”.

Have a great weekend!