In November 1621 in Massachusetts Bay, the Pilgrims of the Mayflower held a three day celebration of their first successful corn harvest. The menu was substantially different from that of the Thanksgiving meals many of us will enjoy in the US this week: The lack of ovens would have prevented our 17th century counterparts from enjoying pies or casseroles, but records suggest that lobster was consumed in large quantities… so perhaps a neutral comparison.
Four centuries later, Americans are celebrating another historic corn harvest. The latest USDA numbers suggest an all-time record 175.4 bushels per acre average yield across the country. The world has more corn than ever, which feeds the economy in ways unanticipated by our pilgrim predecessors. Onetime Plymouth Colony Governor Bradford could not have known that billions of bushels a year (more than a third of US production) would go to ethanol production to fuel the nation’s energy grid. Nor would he have imagined derived products like high fructose corn syrup, corn starch or citric acid.
As the uses for the nation’s crops have grown more complex, so have the challenges. Global infrastructure prevents the fastest growing regions of the world from accessing the food they need. Commodities markets in much of the world still trade on incomplete and anecdotal information. Oversupply in some markets has put pressure on farmers to innovate or consolidate.
Nevertheless, we have a lot to be thankful for. Across the value chain, technology (like Kernel) is starting to bring transparency to the agricultural world. More resilient seed technology is allowing crops to be planted in new territory. Financial innovation is allowing commodities traders new ways to speculate and hedge risk in emerging markets.
At TellusLabs, we have a lot to be thankful for too. This time last year, David and Mark had impressive forecasting models, a MassChallenge Diamond award, and positive attitudes. This year... we still have those things (our models continue to anticipate government forecasts ahead of consensus). This time around, we ALSO have built and launched the Kernel software product in US and South America, onboarded commercial partners including leading agribusinesses, commodities funds and food companies, and assembled a “Team Tellus” of 12 driven, talented and curious individuals.In the coming year, we’re looking forward to working with you as we tackle the challenges above - so that next year we’ll have even more to be thankful for. Please sign up for a trial or send us a note if you’d like to speak with a member of the team. In the meantime, please enjoy the holiday season.