The term Foodtech encompasses new technologies and innovative solutions that are radically changing the food, agriculture and livestock industries around the world.
The term Foodtech encompasses new technologies and innovative solutions that are radically changing the food, agriculture and livestock industries around the world. It includes applying the Industry 4.0 to this particular sector, and the specific technologies and solutions that enable creating new food from new nutrients or combinations of existing nutrients.
In sum, Foodtech encompasses the ecosystem of innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups that are applying the latest technology to improve all the links in the food chain, from the production to the distribution, and ultimately, the consumption. Ultimately, this industry seeks to tackle the upcoming global challenges, such as climate change and the increasing population, and guide the agri-food industry towards a more sustainable and efficient future.
Broadly speaking, foodtech start-ups seek to resolve some of these challenges:
- Food waste
- CO2 emissions
- Solid and liquid waste
- Scarce labor force
- Opaque supply chains
- Inefficient distribution
- Food security and traceability
- Efficiency and profitability of farms
- Unsustainable meat production.
We have classified Foodtech applications and services based on the goal they serve, following our own Future Trends Forum expert Alessio D’Antino’s taxonomy. He is the founder and CEO of Forward Fooding, the first collaborative platform in the world for the food and beverage industry:
We will discuss cell-based agriculture (laboratory meat and fish), as it is expected to stir a revolution in the industry. Just to get a rough idea of its potential, the AgriFoodTech venture capital firm AgFunder has indicated in its report Agrifood tech Mid-Year Investment Review how start-ups developing innovative food and ingredients, including alternative protein, raised more funds in the first six months of 2020 than in all of 2019, hitting the $1.1 billion mark.
The search for protein-rich alternatives to meat and fish (plant-based meat, insects, 3D printed food and cell-based agriculture) is a rising trend that attracts both investors and start-ups in a market that grows exponentially and globally.
Precision nutrition is also on the rise. It offers personalized diets based on your genetics and linked to each person’s genome and microbiota. Our organism offers key information on our health, which is key to develop personalized diets and offer specific food for each person or group affected by a certain disease or ailing.
What are the foodtech categories? We will take a look at each of them, as well as the technologies and solutions involved and some illustrating examples:
- Agrotechnologies: Services and technologies that seek to increase agricultural efficiency and sustainability, including the use of field sensors, drones, management and admin software for agriculture, automated equipment and water and fertilizer management solutions. This category includes novel cultivation techniques, such as vertical agriculture, aquaculture and insect breeding.EXAMPLE: AeroFarms: worldwide leader in vertical agriculture, it produces 390 times more crops than traditional agriculture with 95% less water and 0 pesticides. They are enabled by an intensive use of technologies: sensors and IoT actuators, data science, artificial vision tools and artificial intelligence.
- Consumer services and apps: Applications and services that facilitate access to food and information about it. For example, nutrition and recipe apps, specialized digital platforms, applications that help users find restaurants based on their dietary needs, and services to hire professional chefs to cook at home. EXAMPLE: HireAChef is a North American collaborative platform enabling users to hire a specific chef online, based on the type of food preferred.
- Food delivery at home: On demand food delivery services directly to consumers. This category includes food delivery and ready-to-eat food from restaurants. It also includes dark kitchens. EXAMPLE: CloudKitchens, a start-up created by the co-founder and former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick. Deliveroo was among the big groups to pioneer in dark kitchens, creating this service in 2017.
- Food processing: Products or services that leverage on innovative techniques to process food or improve the functionality of ingredients. For example, 3D printing solutions specific for food or packaging technology for specific ingredients. EXAMPLE: eggXYt, a startup we have discovered via Pedro Álvarez, a Future Trends Forum expert, has come to solve an industry-wide issue in poultry farming: they have developed a technology to detect the gender of embryos as soon as the egg is laid and before the 21-day incubation period starts. Farms will save on the incubation cost for the eventually slaughtered chicken and the costs incurred to determine the gender as they hatch. Moreover, 8 billion eggs could be added yearly to the global food supply. A brilliant solution to a complicated problem.
- Food security and traceability: Technological solutions to disinfect machinery and other food processing equipment, assess product freshness and extend their useful life. This category includes as well products or services to detect undesired ingredients, pathogens and allergens, as well as Blockchain traceability applications to trace the full supply chain and show the product source. EXAMPLE: In order to verify the quality and health of a product, large companies such as Carrefour, Nestlé, and most recently Starbucks have already implemented the blockchain technology. By using this technology, tamper-proof data can be shared securely among players in the food value chain, enabling consumers to trace the food to its source.
- Catering and kitchen technologies: Smart appliances for consumers, as well as smart equipment or technologies to help restaurants manage their business more efficiently. This category includes solutions to make professional kitchens smarter via Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and IoT. EXAMPLE: Plant Jammer, a Danish start-up, offers AI-based kitchen help. This company promotes a 0 food waste economy: users tell the app what ingredients they have in their fridges and kitchen cabinets and the app comes up with a recipe.
- Next-generation food and beverage: Solutions and processes that leverage science and technology to create new types of food and beverages. This category includes cell-based meat, alternative proteins such as plant-based meat, insect and fungi-based products, functional food and beverages. It also includes meal replacements. EXAMPLE: Further on in this report you will read about two initiatives in this category: BlueNalu and MosaMeat. In addition, note that plant-based proteins are mainstream now, thanks to the latest moves by giants such as Burger King, Findus or McDonald’s.
- Managing waste and surplus: Products and solutions that help reduce food waste. For example, consumer apps that redistribute food surplus from restaurants and supermarkets, and creation of products or subproducts from waste. This category includes as well sustainable bio-based packaging solutions beyond plastic and polymers. EXAMPLE: Tipa creates compostable packaging; no toxic waste, microplastics or other pollutants are produced. This biodegradable packaging is a source of compost.
The foodtech market
- Amazon’s recent commitment to invest $2 billion in clean tech companies, including the foodtech industry.
- In Europe, EIT Food just granted €6 million to food innovations that support COVID-19 related problems. For example, COVICOAT, an antiviral edible coating for food.
According to PitchBook, the global Foodtech ecosystem, including ag-tech, has raised $7 billion in financing rounds in the first half of 2020. In all of 2019 it raised $10 billion.