The global demand for food has put foodtech front and center. Plant based meat, insect proteins, accellular protein products, cell based meat, and new ways to preserve food are paving the way for an interesting future when discussing our food supply.
FoodTech Has Soared In Popularity & Startups
- According to PitchBook, funding for food tech has skyrocketed from about $60 million in 2008 to more than $1 billion in 2015. And unique investments from VCs and private equity funds have doubled from 223 in 2015 to 459 in 2017, according to CB Insights. In examining total investments made, along with exit activity, food tech has now surpassed agtech on both fronts. This is still relatively small, given the food tech sector’s large potential customer base globally of more than 7 billion people (and growing).
- Around the world the demand for meat is expected to increase by 70% by 2025. This 70% increase will need to be met with only 5% more land. The mass production of meat alternatives could fill this gap. Kearney predicts that by 2040, 60% of meat consumed globally will come from lab-grown substitutes or will be plant-based.
- The Adam Smith Foundation predicts that moving away from traditional farming methods could reduce greenhouse emissions by 96% and free up 99% of the land used worldwide for farming.
- The Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) predicts that the market for plant based proteins will expand from $5 billion to $85 billion over the next decade, a 28% year-on-year growth.
The World Economic Forum- Transofrmational Twelve
- The World Ecnomic Forum weighed in on the food crisis the world is facing. They have what they call the Transofrmational Twelve. These 12 innovations are what they believe will transform the food space into what it will need to be.
- The Transformational Twelve consists of alternative proteins, food sensing technologies for safety, nuitrigenetics for personalized nutrition, mobile delivery services, big data and advanced analytics, IoT for real-time supply chain management, blockchain enabled traceability, precision agriculture, gene editing for seed improvements, microbiome technologies, biological based crop protection, and off-grid renewable energy.
- This 35 page study is full of predictions and recommendations. Limits of research time prevented analyzing it fully, but it is suggested reading. It may be viewed here.
Innovations in FoodTech- Overviews
For ease of understanding the research, the initial innovations found in the Early Findings have been included so there is one cohesive document. In addition, we have taken a closer look at several of the categories by providing leaders, technology in the works, and more in-depth explanations.
- With the popularity of 3D printing in the past years it is of no surprise that food has entered the 3D printing arena. This technology works by building the food layer by tiny layer. Ultimately, it will let one have the ultimate control over shape, texture, and taste of products.
- Currently it is very slow and cumbersome to produce food with this method.
- If this technology is successful, it could greatly reduce food waste that comes from conventional cooking methods.
- Natural Machines, a Spanish startup, has introduced the first 3D food printer named Foodini. Foodini uses fresh ingredients loaded into stainless steel capsules to make food like pizza, pasta, quiche, pancakes, and brownies. At this point a whole pizza is not going to come out of Foodini, but it does handle that difficult, time-consuming parts that keep people from cooking at home.
High Pressure Processing/Carbon Dioxide Processing
- Extending the shelf life of foods without undermining the taste or quality of food has always been a priority.
- High-Pressure Processing (HPP) could quadruple or even extend shelf life by ten times. This is a cold pasteurization process that takes food that is sealed in packaging and introduces into a high isostatic pressure environment (200-600 MPa) that is transmitted through the water. The high pressure inactivates micro-organisms to guarantee safety, while maintaining taste, appearance, texture, and nutritional value. The food then maintains its original freshness throughout the shelf-life. No irradiation or chemicals are needed in this process.
- A video of the process may be viewed here.
- HPP is currently being used on RTE and RTC proteins, meat tenderization, fast marinating meats, salsa, hummus, beverages, dressings, raw pet foods, avocado/guacamole, dips and sides, wet salads, prepared meals, and seafood.
- Farther Farms created a carbon dioxide process that pasteurizes food and eliminates the need for freezing, refrigeration, and preservatives. The shelf life is extended by 70%. According to Dr. Syed Rizvi, professor of Food Process Engineering at Cornell University, “Such a breakthrough could be a major contributor to solving food system problems worldwide.”
- Insect protein has not completely caught on in the western world, but is normal for many parts of the world. Insect protein is about 60% protein and is full of vitamin B12, along with having more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach.
- Exo is a startup that is hoping to change that. They had a very successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $55,000. They have since received funding from the rapper Nas and Tim Ferriss.
- If the popularity grows, it could create an entirely new industry along with hundreds of jobs.
- The environmental benefits make this an attractive option. With 455 liters of water one can make 72 grams of crickets or 6 grams of beef. The physical space is also drastically reduced.
Lab-Grown Meat/Clean Meat
- Lab-grown meat comes from in-vitro animals. It is also called clean meat. If successful, it could make meat production a new form of sustainable engineering. The meat is grown from cells that are biopsied from donor livestock and then cultured in a lab.
- Some estimate that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 96% if this was adopted on a large scale.
- Some polls indicate that a significant percentage of people would be open to this option of eating lab-grown meat.
- Pricing has improved, but is still not realistic for mass commercialization. In 2013, when the first lab grown burger was introduced it had a price tag of $280,000. Some start-up believe these burgers could be sold for $10 per patty.
- JUST is one of the companies working with lab-grown meat. Currently, it costs $2,400 to produce 450 grams of beef. This is predicted to fall and technology and efficiency increases.
- Higher Steaks, a spin off of Mosa Meat (the originators of lab-grown meat), is one of the newest companies to enter the market. They use cell culture techniques to develop a cell-based meat. This meat has the potential to use 99% less land, 96% less water, 45% less energy, and emit 96% less greenhouse gasses. They use stem cells obtained through blood samples and skin patches, then reprogram these cells into tissue like muscle and fat. They have hopes to enter the market with a pork sausage by 2021.
Plant Based Protein
- Some plants are excellent sources of protein and are easier to produce than traditional meat. Common plant based proteins are chickpeas, lentils, barley, almonds, quinoa, spinach, peanuts, and kidney beans. The problem with plant based proteins are they do not contain all the amino acids that one needs and are less absorbed by the body than meat.
- Impossible Foods recently launched the 2.0 version of its vegan burger, which was the winner in the top tech category at CES 2019. As prices decrease and sensorial quality increase, these products will gain more popularity among all consumer groups. Beyond Meat is another plant based protein provider that is experiencing success. Smithfield Foods, which is known for pork, recently announced a new soy-based line of products including burgers, sausage, meatballs, and ground meat.
- Traditional meat producers are also getting into the game. Unilever has acquired The Vegetarian Butcher in the Netherlands. JBS, the world's largest meat producer is launching a plant based burger.
Dairy & Nut Free Milk
- Companies are working on the commercialization of alternative proteins such as Clara Foods (egg whites from cell cultures), and Ripple Foods and Oatly that are focused on developing dairy and nut-free milk alternatives.
- Companies like Brightseed, Just and Renaissance Bioscience are blazing new trails on the biological and nutraceuticals front, seeking ways to produce food and nutritional supplements in cleaner, smarter and more sustainable ways.
- Back of the Yards Algae Science (BYAS) is an industrial biochemical company that uses microalgae. They develop and commercialize natural colorants and alternative protein, specifically no-odor, long life spirulinamad Chlorella flours. BYAS is developing sera and media to accelerate the development of cellular agriculture.,
- Algama, a Frech startup, has figured out how to turn microalgae into a sustainable, protein-rich food source. They have released Springwave, which is a blue-spirulina based drink that is full of vitamins.
Cell Based Meat & Proteins
- Cell based meat consists of acellular and cellular products. Cellular products are primarily made from living or once living cells. Acellular products come from organic molecules like protein and fat, but not living cells. Both ways end up with a final product that is essentially the same as regular food harvested from animals.
- Accellular products use microbes like yeast or bacteria. Genes are inserted, and the colony can be "programmed" to produce products like milk for instance, if the yeast were programmed with cow DNA.
- These technologies have been around for a while and were used to create insulin and vanilla. Now they are taking it further by creating food sources.
- TutrleTree Labs in Singapore is the first company in the work that has the ability to create milk from all mammals. The cell-based methods could revolutionize how milk is produced and babies are fed. They are able to achieve a 98% reduction in their carbon footprint through this process.
- Tyson and Cargill have both invested in the cell-based meat startup, Memphis Meats.
Food From Electricity/Air/Water
- Solar Foods, a Finnish company, has produced a nutrient-rich protein with air, water, and electricity. Solein is produced by extracting CO2 from the air, then combining it with water, nutrients, and vitamins, using solar energy. The end result is a product that looks and tastes like wheat flour with 50% protein, 5-10% fat, and 20-25% carbs. This protein source is entirely agriculture free and will never run out.
- Personalized nutrition, or nutrigenomics, is the concept of tailoring your diet to your genetic makeup. This makeup predisposes people to react to different foods differently. This concept is in its infancy with much to be learned. Science has proven that the genetic makeup can make someone react differently. Some can absorb certain nutrients more effectively than others.
- This process would need to become much more sophisticated before it becomes widely accepted.
- Research is still being conducted to determine how much a person's genetic makeup truly impacts their dietary needs. So far the biggest conclusion is that some absorb nutrients better than others.
- DNAFit, Nutrigenomix, DNA Nudge, FoodMarble, and Habit offer services that claim to tailor eating plans to the individual's DNA. A sample of DNA is provided and customized diet plan is prepared. Some also offer to send meals for an additional fee.
- Platejoy provides users with tailored meal plans that are based on cooking habits, specific dietary needs, and information obtained form wearables that measure energy requirements.
- Viome reviews microbes from multiple customer samples to detect whether they need more or less of a specific supplement.
- Carlo Ratti Associati, an Italian design company has developed an automated juice bar. After the juice is served, the rind is separated into a drum and heated with polylactic acid that in turn makes a bio-plastic. This bio-plastic is fed into a 3D printer that makes the recyclable cups the juice is drank from.
- Automated grading has the potential to replace thousands of workers. This is usually a robotic process where the food product is graded for acceptability.
- Aris has developed the AQS system. It grades and sorts over 12,000 chickens per hours. It is the first of its kind and uses a camera along with software to detect issues with the chickens. The process uses AI so it can improve over time. This information, in turn, is used to run the entire operating slaughterhouse.
- They have also developed a similar system to grade plants.
- One-third of human greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Farms can help reverse this trend by planting cover crops like grasses, rotating crops and using organic fertilizers like manure.
- The result is healthier soil and the ability to reduce carbon from the atmosphere.
- Innovations in microbes, which are good fungi that can help plant growth are in the works in part to a joint venture with Ginko Bioworks and Bayer. The goal is to reduce the dependency on synthetic fertilizer by genetically engineering microbes that can provide more nutrients to crops. These microbes have not been tested in the field yet, but one of the microbes in the works produces a biofilm to stimulate plant growth, protect the roots, and helps absorb nutrients better.
- Vertical farming is gaining popularity as the possible future of large-scale agriculture. The concept takes rooftop gardens and build upon it. Farms are either hydroponic (grown in nutrient-rich water), or aeroponic (exposed roots are sprayed with a nutrient-enriched mist). No soil is required. Physical ground space is minimized and all year farming is possible. The need for agro-chemicals is also eliminated.
- This makes urban farms a viable source. Large warehouses present an answer to the land shortage by using less land and water overall than traditional farming while producing 200-400% higher yields.
- Currently, vertical farming uses a large amount of energy to power the systems and artificial light. Renewable energy must be adopted effectively on a large scale to make vertical farming a truly viable option.
- Japan's Spread Co. recently began shipping from their vertical farm. They can produce 30,000 heads of lettuce per day. Fresh Direct Nigeria is bringing stackable container farms to cities that need assistance in addressing food supply gaps.
Digital Agriculture/Precision Farming
- The introduction of precision farming has enabled farmers to accurately measure, map and manage any variations in a field to significantly increase yields while lowering production costs. Many new technologies have been introduced to better analyze the soil acidity, nutrient level, historical yield and climate variations of a field. From GPS-enabled tractors and aerial drones carrying multispectral sensors to connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices that monitor individual crops, farmers now have access to much more information to let them make informed decisions.
- Software and algorithms that use big data are and have been created to increase yields, improve sustainability, and increase profitability.
- Super crops are not only extreme weather resistant, but they are richer in nutrition. This process is achieved through selective breeding along with biofortification, where nutrients are added by the process of cross-breeding standard plants with their wild relatives. Genetic engineering and modification is also used.
- Scuba rice is one example. This rice can survive even if submerged underwater for two weeks. In Dubai, scientist are modifying quinoa so it can survive in the desert. This is significant, as it could be an answer to sub-Saharan areas where malnutrition is a concern.
- Amfora uses gene editing to enhance the nutritional profiles of crops that are important to global food security. Their initial focus in on developing minimally processed raw materials for plant based meat and other replacements for animal protein. They are also developing high-protein food crops like legumes, wheat, and rice.
- Robo-chefs are automated kitchens. They consist of a pair of fully articulated and automated robotic arms that can replicate the movements of humans along with the same level of dexterity. Recipes are 'recorded' with a list of ingredients and instructions with a replay of the original chef's motions.
- Moley collaborated with several robotics companies to create their robo-chef. It will not be cheap though. Each robo-chef now costs $15,000. Their long term goal is to produce a self-contained kitchen that can be operated via an app.
- Ekim, a French startup, is building 24 hour automated fresh pizza kiosks that have pizza making robots inside that are called PAZZI. A pizza can be prepared in 30 seconds. They are also looking into expanding to salads, drinks, and desserts.
Industrial Food Tech
- While some companies focus on the food itself, many others are exploring how to process, package and distribute this new wave of sustainable, healthy and innovative food. Industrial food tech is the sub-segment of food tech that focuses on addressing fundamental business model and B2B pain points within the food industry. The companies include innovators in novel processing and packaging technology and new/functional ingredients that have improved nutritional, labeling or formulation characteristics.
- Food preservation technology companies like Apeel Sciences and Hazel Technologies are leading the way in reducing food waste, while improving produce quality during transportation. This is a massive issue ripe for innovation, as pre-consumer food waste comprises 40% of all food wasted in the U.S. Improved food-waste profiles could enable an overall reduction in required arable land.
- Food inspection startup P&P Optica has received financing to develop their food quality and foreign object detection technology. This hyperspectral tech has the potential to provide not only food-safety improvements in automated foreign object detection, but also to enable meat quality grading to be standardized and improved over time.
Plastic Free/Biodegradable Packaging
- The food industry struggles with their move away from plastic. Some packaging, upon further inspection, still poses a threat to the environment. Chipotle, for example, was lauded for their use of compostible bowls only to find out they contained high levels of flourine, which is toxic, makes the product non-biogradable, and has been linked to cancer.
- Danone and Coca-Cola, as well as important global generators of plastic waste, got together during Our Ocean Global Conference and signed an ambitious agreement to significantly reduce plastic generation and disposal. Biodegradable, plastic-free solutions with optimized functionalities are gaining traction.
- Many companies are now developing innovative biodegradable alternatives that harness waste products in the food industry, such as the six to eight million metric tons of shellfish waste produced every year. Scientists have found a use for this waste by turning the chitin from the shells of shellfish into chitosan, which serves as a biodegradable plastic wrap that could be used in food packaging.
- Evoware, from Indonesia, is using algae as a plastic replacement. Algae does not require fertilizer and absorbs CO2 during growth. This packaging is edible and contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Bruxelwaffle is currently using this packaging.
- The costs of running a restaurant are considerable. Some are choosing to cut out the middleman and have a fully virtual restaurant.
- So-called ‘ghost kitchens’, or cloud kitchens, are focused purely on making fast-food deliveries. They have no dining area, meaning they can cut back on labor and rent costs. One of the major players in this sector right now is Rebel Foods, which operates 235 kitchens across 20 cities in India and is poised for global expansion.
- Taster is an online venture that consists of a chain of online order only restaurants. They food can be prepared in five minuted and delivered to doorsteps within 20 minutes. Munchery and Sprig have recently been started by tech entrepreneurs.
- Keatz is another example. They opened in 2016 and have 10 global virtual restaurants. They focus only on food made for delivery with the assumption of why would someone want to go buy groceries and cook when they could have a great meal delivered in 20 minutes?
- Although there was not enough time to profile every company listed in this article by the Board Of Innovation, it has been included as recommended reading for its interesting companies that were profiled.
- Future FoodTech also shared an interesting lineup of 15 different companies that may be viewed here.
Innovative Company Profiles
- Natural Machines was founded by Emilio Sepulveda, and Lynette Kucsma in 2012 as a private company. They have received numerous awards and recognition, including "Top 10 Food Innovations That Will Change the World."
- Natural Machines produces the Foodini, a 3D printer that produces food from fresh ingredients. Foodini can not only create food, but present it in a way that is pleasing to the typical "foodie". The Foodini retails for $4,000.
- The website may be viewed here.
- Their food gallery may be viewed here.
- They have obtained $5.4 million in four funding rounds. Their latest round was in 2018 from a grant round. They have three investors, with EU Executive Agency for SMEs and Closed Loop Ventures being their latest investors.
- Natural Machines has an annual revenue of $400,000.
- Foodini is their only current project as it is fairly new on the market. There is no mention of what their next product will be. They do state that their goal is to help people lead healthier, sustainable lifestyles.
- Farther Farms is a US based company, founded in 2017, that produces solutions for individuals that care about where their food is sourced. They provide locally sourced, organic, and non-GMO to fresh fruits and vegetables. They are focused on novel technologies to extend shelf-life, preserve nutritional value, and achieve food safety, we create food products that solve foundational problems in the food system.
- Vipul Saran is the founder and CTO. His research on processing technologies is what has led to their new pasteurization techniques.
- The website may be viewed here.
- Farther Farms has an annual revenue of $219,000.
- Farther Farms has had two funding rounds that were both convertible notes from LaunchNY. Amounts were not disclosed.
- Their current project is to "commercialize a new technology that leverages supercritical carbon dioxide to create a natural pasteurization technique. With this approach, we can extend the shelf-life of fresh-cut produce without the use of freezing, refrigeration, or artificial preservatives. We believe this technology can be the next ubiquitous shelf-life extension solution, making possible new food products with global reach."
- Memphis Meats was founded in 2015 in San Francisco by Uma Valeti and Nicholas Genovese. They are an early stage venture. They operate in the clean meat space and are developing meat from animal cells. Their process is environmentally friendly. They have a goal of feeding 10 billion people by 2050.
- Memphis Meats had the first cell based meatball in 2016 and world’s first cell-based chicken and duck in 2017.
- The website may be viewed here.
- Their estimated annual revenue is $2.7 million.
- Memphis Meats has had six funding rounds and has raised $181.1 million. Their last funding was in January 2020 from a Series B round that amounted to $161 million. One of their most prominent investors in Tyson New Ventures and Cargill.
- They do not have a current launch date for any of their products currently. They do plan to launch in the US, then worldwide. They are currently working on technologies that will allow them to produce their meat at a lower cost and larger scales. They state their have made drastic cuts in the production cost in the last year and expect it to drop further as they scale up production. The ultimate goal is to make their cell based meat cheaper than conventional meat. They are also working on other meat types, but do not state which ones are currently being developed.
- Solar Foods was founded in 2017 by Juha-Pekka Pitkänen and Pasi Vainikka as a private company. The Finnish company produces nutrient rich food using only air and electricity as the main resources. The price of their protein is comparable to soy protein. One of the biggest perks is that the protein is not dependent on agriculture, weather or the environment.
- The website may be viewed here.
- Their estimated annual revenue is $1 million.
- Solar Foods has raised $2.8 million in two rounds. Their last round was September 2019 in an unknown venture series.
- They are hoping to start commercial production of their new protein in 2020. Their Solein Bioprocess produces natural protein from CO2 and electricity. It's 100 times more climate-friendly than meat and 10 times better than plants. Unlike conventional protein production, it takes just a fraction of water to produce 1kg of Solein. An animated document explaining more about their protein may be viewed here.
- In 2018, Solar Foods started co-operation with the ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESABIC) in Finland by developing food production for a Mars mission. The goal of this cooperation is to develop a food production concept as part of the astronauts’ life-support system.
- Their road map may be viewed here.
- Amfora is a bio-tech start-up focused on developing crops with enhanced nutritional content. Amfora was founded in 2016 by Jonathan Burbaum. Micahel Lassner is the Chief Science Officer.
- Their website may be viewed here.
- According to PricCo, Amfora has a post-money valuation in the range of $10M to $50M as of Apr 12, 2017
- They have had one series A funding round in 2017 for $5 million. Their lead investors was Spruce Capital Partner, which they are a portfolio company of.
- Amfora is currently building a platform of technologies to enhance nutrient density. They are developing a family of feed and food crops that Amfora is developing a family of feed and food crops that address the growing global demand for foods that are high in protein. Amfora uses "gene editing, a process for making precise modifications to the genome, to regulate a genetic switch that controls the balance between protein and carbohydrates in all crops." This process enhances the protein content and makes them a more complete food source.
- They are also attempting to develop a low-cost, plant-based source of protein for farmed seafood. Meal made from feed-grade fish, such as herring, mackerel, and anchovies, have long been the main source of feed for farmed fish. Amfora’s “ultra-high” protein soy has a protein content comparable to fishmeal and the high-density protein ingredients currently used in aquaculture feed formulations. By replacing these expensive ingredients in aquaculture feed formulations, Amfora’s ultra-high protein soybean can dramatically reduce the cost of farmed seafood while preserving the marine ecosystem. "
- Finally, they are pursuing approaches to optimizing the amino acid profile of plant-based proteins, "modifying carbohydrates to reduce their effect on serum glucose, and enhancing micronutrients that help the body to absorb and utilize essential nutrients and promote wellness. "
- Clara Foods was founded in 2015 by Arturo Elizondo and David Anchel in San Francisco. They created the world's first chickenless egg proteins by the use of advanced fermentation and nutritional proteins from microorganisms. Their product uses less water, land and energy to achieve results compared to traditional models and creates a natural ingredient free of pesticides and preservatives.
- Their website may be viewed here.
- Clara Foods has an estimated annual revenue of $4 million.
- Clara Foods has had four funding rounds that have raised $16.8 million. Their last round was a series B in 2019.
- Their current project is to perfect their product and get it to market. Their process consists by starting with yeast and sugar. They then use advanced yeast engineering and fermentation technologies to selectively cultivate the perfect strain of yeast. This protein then can be used for multiple purposes like egg albumen for baking, environmentally friendly antimicrobials, or pure, clean protein, our process can make anything. An article by The Guardian stated they wanted the product on sale by the end of 2019, but there was no proof that actually happened.