FoodBytes! by Rabobank held its 15th edition in San Francisco yesterday, and 15 new innovators joined the alumni ranks, a community of 265 startups and counting Recognized for their positive impact on the food value chain, Bushel, Shaka Tea, and Toast Ale won awards for their efforts to increase agricultural efficiency, offer Hawaiian antioxidant beverages and fight food waste. 


While the group continues to expand upon food trends we’ve seen at past FoodBytes!, they also introduced several new themes to keep an eye on:


Alternative Proteins

Three California-based startup giants have catapulted alternative protein into the public eye. From Memphis Meats’ lab-grown patties to the meat-like plant-based burgers from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, Silicon Valley is investing heavily into this area of food tech. It comes as no surprise then, that approximately half of our alumni working in alternative protein have pitched in San Francisco. Investment in the space is further encouraged by promising consumer data, as alternative protein sales are growing 8% year over year. At FoodBytes! SF we saw the alternative protein trend continuing to evolve. Hargol FoodTech developed a commercial grasshopper farm to produce sustainable protein on a large scale, with a greatly reduced dependence on land. Developing less resource-dependent methods of providing protein to consumers, Planetarians is utilizing the material left over after oil is extracted from sunflower seeds. These defatted seeds are 35% protein, higher than the concentration in beef, which the company then grinds into a flour. Additionally, Bond Pets extends sustainable protein practices to pet food. Through a fermentation process similar to craft brewing, Bond takes animal cells, feeds them a nutrient-rich mixture that promotes growth, and allows the cells to multiply into proteins resembling meat.


Simplicity in Superfoods

According to a MarketWatch report, 200 times as many food and beverage products were launched with superfood labels in 2017 as compared to 2011. A number of FoodBytes! SF pitch companies recognize the nutritious qualities of regional ingredients that have yet to be widely commercialized. The Worthy Company combines superfoods like chia and legumes with fruits and vegetables to make a nutritious convenient “blendie” breakfast bowl. Taali is harvesting the power of healthier grains to produce snacks from popped water lily seeds with inventive global flavors. Promoting the adoption of these novel ingredients not only helps promote biodiversity through their cultivation, but also gives financial returns to the smaller communities that produce them. Shaka Tea is supporting the ecosystem and economy of the Hawaiian Islands with its line of herbal iced teas brewed with mamaki, a locally-grown antioxidant. In the nutritional supplement space, GEM provides the first FDA-regulated real food multi-vitamin for women made from 13 algae and plant-based ingredients.




Boosted by Biotechnology

Bioproduction can be defined as the processing and production of biologically based drugs and living cell cultures. With the industry expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, according to Robotics Business Review, many agtech companies are using advancements in biological monitoring and production to improve health and sustainability of the food supply chain. Healthy Cow is developing a natural probiotic for cows, providing immunity to costly diseases and maintaining udder health for stable milk production. Zymtronix is optimizing the performance of enzymes in products across a variety of applications, crop protection and food ingredient manufacturing.


Real-time Monitoring

Using a more comprehensive and resource-efficient approach, technology connected farms have the potential to deliver actionable insights and thereby more sustainable production for farmers.  Cropin Technology Solutions offers a portfolio of digital strategy and decision-making tools that allow farmers and other stakeholders in the agriculture ecosystem to access data, respond quickly, and make decisions that truly optimize their effort. Bushel is also delivering real-time information with its software platform and app built to enable better communication between grain elevators and growers. Additionally, SnapDNA provides food safety technology that eliminates the need to culture bacteria prior to analysis, making it possible to test food samples in the field and secure analysis in just over an hour. Other companies like Osmo Systems offer a water quality sensor and monitoring system that allows shrimp and fish farmers to continuously monitor their ponds and ensure a healthy ecosystem for a fraction of the cost of legacy monitoring systems.


Waste Minimization

According to the Retail Industry Leaders Association, 68 million American adults base purchasing decisions on their own personal, social, and environmental values and are willing to pay up to 20% more for environmentally sound products. As a result, there continues to be a growing number of companies that look to fill this demand with waste minimizing and environmentally friendly products. Also mentioned above, Planetarians is turning food waste into high-protein flour in a low-emission upcycling process from the leftover parts of seeds. Helping save some of the 24 million slices of bread wasted every day, Toast Ale aims to minimize food waste by taking yesterday’s unsold loaves from local bakeries and turning them into award-winning craft beers. Approaching waste minimization from a materials perspective, Corumat develops 100% plant-based, compostable, renewable packaging that generates 60% less CO2 during production than traditional plastic cups. Even better, Corumat’s packaging is said to be 30% lower in cost than comparable technologies.


Next Up: We’re excited to see what new trends unfold at FoodBytes! Chicago on September 19.


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