By Saskia Hoebee and Nina Meijers

Known for its international-scale Universities, its vibrant Innovation Ecosystem and extensive agricultural production, Montreal was the perfect setting for the 12th edition of FoodBytes! by Rabobank. Canada’s innovative spirit was proved by ten Canadian entrepreneurs pitching amongst the twenty finalists pioneering the future of food and agriculture. Read on to learn more about the disruptive startups that pitched and the trends we saw on stage.

Transforming comfort into clean consumption

Today’s consumers are more health-focused than ever and place a growing emphasis on ‘clean’ products and ingredients.  However, these fast-moving targets are not willing to compromise on taste or convenience. Consumer food startups aim to tick all the boxes. SAP! Beverages won the Highly Commended Award with its sparkling superfood beverages. By drinking its naturally probiotic maple or birch sap sodas, consumers improve gut-health, support farmers and protects forests in Vermont. Partake Brewing is concurring the non-alcoholic beer segment in North-America, a market that is ripe for disruption with less than 1%-2% of the $46bln annual brewer’s turnover generated by non-alcoholic beer. With IPA’s that are considered to taste like ‘real beer’ that contain only 10 calories per can, it target health-conscious consumers.

Snacklins, pork-free, vegan cracklings are made exclusively from vegetables and clock in at under 80 calories per bag. Another guilt-free snack is Greek-style frozen yoghurt from PowCow, that is high in taste, low in sugar and loaded with prebiotics and 15g of proteins that stimulate muscle recovery. Clean-label ingredient company AmazStev claims to have cracked the code for Stevia without the aftertaste, through applying a proprietary process that eliminates the bitter aftertaste from the stevia leaf extract. This allows easy integration of the zero-calorie sweetener in products. Reshaping morning habits of the 45% that tend to skip breakfast, is Oatbox, that’s plugging into the growing demand for subscription food with gourmet breakfast boxes, delivered to homes and offices.

Keeping Healthy Food Fresh

The move towards healthier, fresher and ‘cleaner’ consumption without additives challenges both food logistics and household fridge management. Several of the pitch companies apply food tech innovations to prolong the freshness of healthy food in a natural way. Natur + L’s High Pressure processing technology can increase the shelf life of food products up to three times by making deadly pathogens inactive. Impactful Health Research & Development has developed biodegradable, active packaging that keeps fish fresh up to 15-30% longer through an antibacterial film.  

StiritUp develops shelf-stable, fresh hummus by separating ingredients using its smart packaging method that prolongs the shelf life up to 15 months.  And it is no longer necessary to keep a stock of fresh fruit and veg at home to make healthy smoothies due to Evive Smoothie cups, which blend into a nutrient dense smoothie full of superfoods without using a blender.

Connected Supply Chains

Another strong trend we saw on stage in Montreal is supply chain transparency. Judge’s choice award winner Smart Catch offers hardware and software solutions that reduce commercial fishing bycatch – estimated at 25% of total catch – and give more control to the fisherman. Oceans Executives’s innovation for the seafood industry aims to transform the fragmented sales process through its open marketplace. Its software increases transparency and automates the sales process for both sellers and buyers of fish. Aiming to disrupt the outdated food distribution model is PodFoods, through data-driven software. Its digital end-to-end solutions help retailers to source and distribute local food from emerging brands. By applying dynamic pricing principles, Feedback Inc’s mobile platform connects consumers to restaurants with competitive offers, helping the foodies to save money while reducing food waste in restaurants.  

Pioneering the vertical integration model in food is Here: a complete farm-to-label company that produces, distributes and sells local products such as cold-pressed juices and dips, to ensure access to local food all year round.  The Real Co aims to be the first ‘single origin food’ company, beginning with pantry staples like Himalayan pink rock salt and coconut sugar.  All products are sourced directly from one farm, allowing greater focus on returns for the farmer and transparency from grower to eater.  

Artificially Intelligent Farming and Cooking

Improving efficiency and avoiding losses upstream in the supply chain is integral to many agtech innovations, a lot of which revolve around data collection and machine learning. Motorleaf’s AI powered software and hardware helps to predict, control, and monitor crops in indoor farms and greenhouses, ready to transform the $1.3bn Canadian greenhouse market. Helping farmers to grow more sustainably is Ukko Agro which has built a pesticide use recommendation platform for farmers. Through connected sensors in the field combined with algorithms, the startup is able to convert the captured data to predict diseases and irrigation needs up to 3-5 days in advance.

The pitch company aiming to save bees, the pollinators of ~30% percent of our food, definitely moved the audience in Montreal, who awarded Nectar the People’s Choice Award. Nectar combines data-collection with AI to deliver insights on the health of beehives that leads to improved apiary management. Even home cooks can leverage AI by using Klove Chef: voice guided assistance in the kitchen that is linked to an open API, which delivers personalized step-by-step cooking experiences and advice.

What’s Next?

Discover the trends catalysing the future of food in person at FoodBytes! in London (September 13) and New York (October 18). Applications to pitch in New York are now open on the website . Stay tuned and follow FoodBytes! on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or view curated content via the hashtag #FoodBytes. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with the FoodBytes! team today.

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