We were thrilled to bring together industry leaders and investors along with innovate startups at FoodBytes! San Francisco in June. Almost 300 attendees gathered to watch 19 startups present their innovative ideas along with two FoodBytes! Alumni, Kuli Kuli and Back to the Roots.

Our finalist demo companies for the FoodBytes! San Francisco event included Imperfect Produce, Seamore, Harvestport, Chapul, Olakai, Salty Girl Seafood, New Wave Foods, Soliculture, Byte Foods and The Salad Bar. Their platforms and products incorporated key themes of decreasing food waste, increasing efficiency and promoting nutrition with a focus on growth and social relevance at their core.

The FoodBytes! San Francisco award winners also embody the innovation and ingenuity we’re seeing across the food and ag tech sector. Judges Choice Award Winner, Netherlands-based Seamore, created his I Sea Pasta using 100% seaweed. The People’s Choice Award went to California native Imperfect Produce, a company that works directly with farmers to find a home for “ugly” produce that would otherwise go to waste, via a product delivery subscription. And Foodfully, a platform that allows users to automatically track grocery purchases, receive spoilage notifications and recipes to reduce the main causes of household food waste, took home the Highly Commended Award. These three award winners truly display just how far FoodBytes! has come in bringing together the most inspiring though-leaders in the industry.

FoodBytes! has a special significance for us at Rabobank. Something we initially thought would just be drinks with friends has turned into a series of events that is creating change and fostering innovation in the food and agriculture industry.

Rabobank knows that food is not a passing fad or a bubble – it is essential and the industry’s growth is unstoppable with expenditures growing to 70 percent by 2030. While investment in ag-tech has risen to record numbers, it still represents only 3.5% of total venture capital investment, while agriculture represents 10% of total global GDP. In healthcare, for comparison, venture capital investment and its contribution to global GDP are both around 12%.[1]

We also know that providing more food for more people may not be about producing more, but about reducing waste and improving efficiency. We saw these key themes from our FoodBytes! San Francisco finalist demo companies’ presentations, which really underscores our banking for food strategy. We believe that improving the access to finance, the access to knowledge and access to networks, will help increase the availability of food, help improve the access to food, help improve nutrition and will help enhance stability and sustainability.

Simply put, the food and agriculture industry is intensely socially relevant and will continue to be for years to come.

During FoodBytes! San Francisco, Rabobank reinforced our commitment to banking for food through a new partnership with RocketSpace and the creation of Terra: the Food & Ag Accelerator. Terra is a first-of-its-kind program bringing together the industry’s most disruptive startups and progressive corporations to fuel cross-industry innovation and set a new standard for food and agriculture. Combining Rabobank’s food and agribusiness leadership and expertise with RocketSpace’s global tech ecosystem and startup network, Terra’s unique model will provide startups with the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with our corporate partners in a dedicated product validation program. We’re excited to watch the program grow and to see the innovative companies we will work with.

We are inspired by the progress that FoodBytes! has made over the past 18 months and cannot wait to see what happens

[1] AgFunder (2.17.16)

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