The food and agriculture industry is a huge business. On a fundamental level, every one of the 7.8 billion people on Earth needs to eat, so it’s a pretty solid market to be in. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the global food and agricultural business is valued at about $8 trillion.
What about the UK? The average family spends around £60.60 on their weekly food shop, and there are around 19 million families in the UK according to the ONS. So, some quick maths tells us that we spend over £1bn on food shops every week. And that’s before we’ve even considered eating out and the people who don’t fall into that ‘family’ category.
The food and agriculture industry is also, by many metrics, one of the least sustainable. Meat production requires huge amounts of grain, land, and water, and transporting food while it’s still fresh is highly polluting. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly concerned with the freshness and healthiness of their food, but food waste remains a persistent issue.
Fortunately, there are countless companies working to improve the industry.
In accordance with both the need to improve and the huge amounts of funding up for grabs, foodtech startups are booming. These companies are pursuing revolutions from meal kit delivery to vertical farming, and investors see their massive potential. According to Pitchbook, US investment in foodtech companies rocketed from around $60m in 2008 to more than $1.3 bn in just the first five months of 2018.
Here’s our list of foodtechs that look set to explode in 2020:
CEO/Founder(s): Giuseppe Scionti
What they do: Use 3D printers to produce plant-based meat.
Why they’re cool: They use 3D printers to produce plant-based meat.
You’ve probably heard of foodtech companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which make ‘realistic’ meat-substitutes from plant protein. Novameat is similar, but they take the process one step further: it uses 3D printers to create plant-based products with the shape and texture of familiar meats. Whereas competitors like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods use plant proteins to recreate ground meat like burgers and sausages, Novameat aims to recreate cuts of clean muscle meat.
At the moment, they’re working on perfecting their steak so that it looks, feels, cooks, cuts, and most importantly tastes like the real thing. The face behind this venture is Giuseppe Scionti, who (appropriately) has a PhD in Tissue Engineering. He’s a biomedical engineering expert and used to work and research at UCL, which is an impressive background. That’s why we take it seriously when Giuseppe tells TechCrunch: “…I discovered a way to bio-hack the structure of the native 3D matrix of a variety of plant-based proteins to achieve a meaty texture.”
Novameat secured investment from New Crop Capital in 2019, and we expect to see more from them in the year ahead.
Honourable mention in the category of rethinking the concept of ‘meat’ goes to Memphis Meats, a foodtech startup which is working to culture meat from animal cells. Whether lab-grown meat is still meat is something of a philosophical question, but what is clear is that their process is healthier than ‘real meat’ and significantly better for the environment.
CEO/Founder(s): Sébastien Roverso and Cyrill Hamon
What they do: Fully autonomous pizza restaurants.
Why they’re cool: Robots make your pizza.
By the year 2015 we expected to have self-tying shoes, hoverboards and flying cars. We’re not quite there yet, but Pazzi is bringing us one step closer to that imagined future with robot pizza chefs. They already have a trial branch of their automated pizza restaurant up and running in the Val d’Europe shopping centre near Paris. In June 2019, Pazzi raised €10 million in Series A funding to speed up the development of their technology and open this trial branch.
The process works like this: You order on your phone, and the robot restaurant then preps the dough, spreads the sauce, adds the cheese and toppings, cooks the pizza and serves it – all without human intervention. Although the pizzas are made by robots, humans have put extensive thought into the ingredients. Every robotically prepared pizza is made from fresh dough using local flour, organic vegetables, sustainably sourced seafood, and other conscientiously sourced toppings.
3. Growing underground
CEO/Founder(s): Richard Ballard and Steven Dring
What they do: Hydroponic systems to grow herbs and salads underground, all year round.
Why they’re cool: So many reasons.
Growing Underground is a London-based company. They use former air raid shelters, 33 metres below the city’s streets, to grow a variety of salad leaves.
All of the produce that Growing Underground grows in their hydroponic farms is zero carbon and uses 70% less water than traditional open-field farming. They’re fully powered by renewable energy and produce fresh salad leaves all year round. It’s incredible that they’re able to do this, let alone doing it in the middle of London. The foodtech startup, which has celebrity chef Michel Roux Junior on their board of directors, started a £15m Series A funding round in January of 2020. Their client list already includes M&S, Waitrose and Farmdrop.
You can even take a virtual tour of the farm online.
CEO/Founder(s): Gonzague Gru and Guillaume Fourdinier
What they do: Mini (and vertical) farms in containers – in cities.
Why they’re cool: It’s in their name… but also some more substantial reasons.
Agricool, like Growing Underground, aims to cut the environmental impact of transporting the food from the place where it’s grown to the place where it’s consumed. Growing food in cities, the two companies suggest, will result in significant reductions in the food industry’s carbon footprint. However, while Growing Underground have opted to turn bunkers into grow-rooms, Agricool has chosen to put their farms in shipping containers.
Shipping containers are already the ubiquitous unit of shipping, so they’re easy to transport. Agricool aims to use their temperature-controlled hydroponic shipping-container-based ‘farms’ to grow fresh, local, pesticide-free fruit and veg right near consumers. The container takes up barely more space than a few parking spots, and can already grow strawberries, basil, coriander, and lettuce year-round.
The company raised $28 million in funding in 2018, and aims to hire another 200 employees by 2021. They already have farms in France and Dubai, and they plan to open several more in 2020.
CEO/Founder(s): Osnat Michaeli, Erez Galonska and Guy Galonska
What they do: Local and in-store vertical farming.
Why they’re cool: In-store farms cut the distance that food has to travel to almost zero.
Similar in concept to some of the previously mentioned foodtech companies, Infarm uses hydroponic technology to grow produce year-round, but their twist on the idea is that they grow food directly in shops. That’s right, the company aims to cut out the entire transportation chain and grow the food in a store. When it’s ready, customers can simply pick the vegetables and bring them home.
This revolutionary idea uses 95% less water than traditional farming, as well as 75% less fertiliser and – unsurprisingly – 99% less transportation. The company completed a Series B funding round in 2019 which raised $100 million. They’ve partnered with huge supermarket chains like Intermarche and Auchan, and already have over 200 in-store farms in Europe and North America.
6. ResQ Club
CEO/Founder(s): Tuure Parkkinen, Janne Käki, Matias Piiparinen, Marko Rintamäki and Antti Kissaniemi
What they do: Connect users with restaurants to buy food otherwise destined for the bin at discounted prices
Why they’re cool: They’re using technology to take on food waste, which is a major problem.
Every month, tens of thousands of perfectly edible restaurant meals go straight in the bin. This is a huge tragedy, and an entirely avoidable one, according to ResQ Club. This Finnish app connects consumers with restaurants to make sure that every meal gets eaten. The app is easy to use: simply choose from the listed meals, pay, and pick them up whenever you’re ready. Consumers benefit from discounts of up to 50%, while restaurants and food vendors make money from food that would otherwise have earned them nothing.
The app is already operating in Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Poland, and may expand into more countries in the coming year.
CEO/Founder(s): Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One
What they do: Community creation to encourage food sharing and waste reduction.
Why they’re cool: Cutting down food waste and building food-sharing communities.
Up to 50% of all food produced globally is never eaten. Olio is another app that was created to stop good food from going to waste. Unlike ResQ Club, it’s available in the UK, among other countries, and specialises in groceries and other goods rather than restaurant meals.
The app connects individuals and businesses, which list any spare food they have. Others can search the marketplace and then pick-up the food that would have otherwise gone in the bin. This form of hyper-local sharing is also intended to help people meet other environmentally minded people in their neighbourhood and build a stronger community around food sharing.
This foodtech startup has already facilitated the sharing of more than three million portions of food, and they’ve partnered with 270 businesses that share 70,000 meals every month on the platform. The app secured $6 million in Series A funding in 2018.
CEO/Founder(s): Timo Boldt and James Carter
What they do: Subscription-based recipe kit boxes.
Why they’re cool: They cut down on packaging and food waste by sending just what you need.
Gousto promises the ultimate in food shopping convenience. They join other companies in the meal kit delivery world by providing the exact, high-quality ingredients that you need for a given recipe right to your front door. This saves time on the weekly shop, increases the variety of your diet. Users can choose from new recipes every week and manage their subscription through an app.
One of the major benefits to meal kit delivery is that it significantly reduces food waste. Users get just the amount of ingredients that the dish requires, meaning that they don’t buy large quantities of ingredients they use infrequently and let them go to waste. In other words, you don’t need to buy a whole tub of tamarind paste just to use a teaspoon for one recipe. Gousto has a whole blog on sustainability, and it’s clearly one of the driving considerations behind their business.
In 2019, Gousto pledged to cut the plastic they use in half – and they succeeded, saving an amount equivalent to around 238 million plastic straws. The business has raised £75 million in funding and is backed by fitness influencer Joe Wicks
CEO/Founder(s): Antoine Hubert
What they do: Insect farming for premium nutrition.
Why they’re cool: They’re making insects a viable, environmentally friendly animal feed.
Ynsect is building factories that will produce mealworm beetle larvae at an industrial scale for use in animal feed and as fertiliser. Larvae are already a food source for many types of fish, and they’re packed with protein, making them ideal for animal feed. Animal feed is a $500 billion per year market, and disruptors like Ynsect are looking for a slice of it.
The company uses robotics, artificial intelligence and techniques borrowed from vertical farming to bring down costs to make this an affordable mainstream protein source for farms all over the world.
Ynsect raised $125 million in Series C funding in February 2019, and they’re using that money to build a new, 40,000 square meter vertical farm in Amiens, France. Over the next decade, the company plans to build 15 factories around the world including North America and South-East Asia as well as Europe, to produce one million tonnes of insect protein a year.
CEO/Founder(s): Matija Zulj
What they do: Farm management and analytics software.
Why they’re cool: They’re bringing farm management into the 21st Century.
Agrivi is farm management and analytics software designed to help farmers keep track of all their farm’s activities in one place. The software provides farmers with accurate data on every agricultural process, from planting to harvesting, allowing them to improve efficiency and even predict adverse weather and crop disease.
The makers of the software say that Agrivi was born out of a desire to increase crop yield to reduce global hunger. Their website observes that: “By 2050… global food production will need to increase by over 60% if we are to feed the entire population.” So far, Agrivi has helped farms from Serbia to Brazil and has raised $1.4 million in funding.
Keep an eye on these foodtech companies
That’s just ten companies that are working to revolutionise food production and delivery – and there are dozens we haven’t mentioned. It’s an incredibly exciting industry, and definitely one that we should all be keeping track of.
If you’re a foodtech business looking to plant your fields – or hydroponic grow racks, as the case may be – with the seeds of success, drop us a line today to chat about our digital PR and SEO services.
Written by: Tom Pallot, Digital Strategist