THU AM News: Farm conservation practices cut greenhouse emissions, sediment runoff; Idea Fund of La Crosse forms second VC fund

— Conservation practices supported by Green Bay nonprofit Farmers for Sustainable Food cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50,000 tons last year, according to the group’s first annual progress report. 

That’s equal to the emissions from 10,737 cars driven for a year, the organization says. Managing Director Lauren Brey says its work will continue to accelerate. 

“More partnerships, projects and farmer-led groups are in the works,” she said in the report. “Connecting our farmers, food processors, brands, retailers and customers is critical in agriculture’s sustainability journey. Every day, our team’s top priority remains finding ways to best support farmers in their conservation goals and help them succeed.” 

Farmers for Sustainable Food was formed in 2016 as the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance, but rebranded to its current name in 2021. 

The report shows the group of food system partners grew from 14 members in 2020 to 40 last year, and currently partners with six farmer-led coalition groups around the state. Its activities help support 231 farmers covering nearly 300,000 acres and 244,000 livestock, the report shows. 

Along with the greenhouse gas emissions reductions, conservation efforts conducted by these farmers reduced the amount of sediment leaving their farm fields by 106,846 tons — equivalent to over 10,000 dump trucks full of soil. 

And the farmers have prevented 330,471 pounds of phosphorus from leaving their fields. The report notes one pound of phosphorus that reaches a body of water can feed 500 pounds of algae, which can reduce biodiversity and release harmful toxins.  

These figures were gathered through an annual survey of farmers participating in partner organizations. The survey found practices being implemented include soil sampling, nutrient management programs, cover crops, reduced tillage and no-tillage programs, buffer strips surrounding fields and much more. 

See the full report: 

— The Idea Fund of La Crosse has formed a new $20 million venture fund with a goal of raising up to $25 million. 

According to a release announcing the new fund, this is the largest venture capital fund in the state focused on investing in pre-revenue startups. Fund managers are targeting investments in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, and plan to announce their first investments later this year. 

Ken Johnson, a partner in the state-backed Badger Fund that has invested in the Idea Fund, says fund managers Jon Horne and Libby Weber “have done an incredible job.” 

“Their focus on being the first investor in new startups with a geographic target of investment opportunities in north and west Wisconsin has been extremely successful,” he said in the release. 

After the first Idea Fund invested in Madison-based software company Curate in 2017, the business was acquired in 2021 by FiscalNote. The fund also invested in 10 other Wisconsin-based startup companies, and wrapped up its investment period in July 2021 before managers began seeking investors for the new fund, the release shows. 

See more details: 

Listen to an earlier podcasts with Horne: 

— The state’s biohealth sector saw 10.6 percent job growth between 2018 and 2021, according to BioForward Wisconsin CEO Lisa Johnson. 

In a recent interview, Johnson shared this figure ahead of an upcoming report the group will be rolling out next month exploring employment trends for the industry. Findings of the 2022 Wisconsin Biohealth Economic Impact Study will be presented Oct. 12 at the Wisconsin Biohealth Summit in Madison. 

“We saw 10.6 percent growth, versus if you look at the total of all industries in the state of Wisconsin, those went down by 2.7 percent … so that’s exciting to us,” she said. “We have 51,533 jobs just in our biohealth industry.” 

BioForward is holding a virtual career fair today for member companies, the second in a three-part series that began in May. A third career fair is planned for February. Johnson says these events aim to help bring workers to Wisconsin to support the state’s growing biohealth industries. 

“That is the biggest issue for our companies … rather than only trying to circulate talent within the state, we need to start bringing more in and our industry does a great job of attracting talent from outside the state,” she said. 

See more on the upcoming Wisconsin Biohealth Summit: 

— Trade expert Bruce Glaub says export credit insurance can help protect companies as they do business on the international stage. 

Glaub is a principal for the Trade Acceptance Group and representative of the Wisconsin District Export Council. He spoke yesterday during a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Trade’s World Trade Association. 

Along with discussing changes to a trade finance guide created by a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, he touted the benefits of export credit insurance. 

Under private export credit insurance, he explained companies take on about 10 percent of the risk while the insurer takes on the other 90 percent or so. He said this can be paired with Small Business Administration working capital financing programs for added benefit. 

“Now you can get some advance rates to help grow your international and make it self-sufficient so it doesn’t interfere with domestic growth,” he said. 

He said one challenge with the SBA programs is they require a personal guarantee, but using trade credit insurance can help lower the risk of making such a commitment. 

“So what I’m saying is you couple these two together … and now you have protection to go into foreign markets, you have international that is way more self-sufficient than it’s ever been,” he said. 

See the updated guide here: 

— Health officials have identified a total of 75 monkeypox cases in Wisconsin, according to data from the Department of Health Services. 

DHS yesterday announced the creation of a new monkeypox website, which shows 36 of those cases were found in Milwaukee County. Meanwhile, Dane County has seen 15 cases, Outagamie County had seven cases and the other 11 counties with monkeypox cases had three or fewer. 

In a release, the agency notes minority communities in the state are being disproportionately impacted by the disease, as vaccination rates for monkeypox are “significantly lower” among non-white residents. 

See the new site: 

See the release: 

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