FoodBytes! journeys to Chicago, the U.S. food heartland
FoodBytes! is a next-gen pitch competition, but it’s also a discovery tool for food and ag startups and networking platform building lasting connections in the F&A industry. When considering which US city to take FoodBytes! to next, Chicago felt like a perfect fit. It’s an iconic food & ag city in so many ways: arguably the CPG capital of the US – Chicago is home to more than 4,500 food & beverage companies that employ more than 130,000 people (CFBN) – it’s also ripe for innovation with a unique mashup of technology and CPG. According to AgFunder, the landscape is proving fruitful to venture capitalists, with the median multiple for investors beating out both New York and San Francisco. FoodBytes! sees an opportunity to bring many of these likeminded yet disparate food and ag innovation players together, spurring even more growth through cross-collaboration. “Rabobank is a force in the ecosystem, its commitment to driving the sector forward through innovation is a mission that permeates the entire organization,” says FoodBytes! Chicago judge and founder of Germin8 Ventures Michael Lavin.
Food startup innovation drivers: the Chicago applicant pool
Applicants for Chicago spanned 18 countries and 5 different continents, yet 30 percent werebased in the Midwest, further highlighting the Heartland’s status as a hotbed for innovation. Among the applicants, we continue to see subsectors like functional foods, food waste and precision agriculture trending at the top. With the functional food market projected to reach over $440B in 2022, it makes sense that a whopping 67 percent of CPG applicants claimed a functional benefit of their products. Food waste apps have increased 3x across FoodBytes! in the last three years, with 25 percent of food-waste applicants focused on packaging solutions. Over the history of FoodBytes!, 50 percent of our AgTech applicants have been working on precision agriculture solutions, helping farmers optimize their resources and reduce input costs. This holds up in the latest Chicago applicant pool as well, with precision ag and animal health vying for top subsector.
The Final 15: Sustainable production, food as medicine & climate-resistant crops take the stage
The 15 startups selected to pitch at FoodBytes! are innovating on the forefront of many of the focuses we saw trending across the applicant pool, innovating in sustainable biotechnology, waste up-cycling, novel healthy ingredients and food safety.
AgTech pitch company Capro-X has developed a sustainable biotechnology that turns problematic acid whey byproduct from Greek yogurt production into bio oil replacements for palm oil. Pitch company LocalCoho is targeting sustainable production via their land-based recirculating aquaculture (RAS) company that grows sustainable, traceable and fresh Coho salmon.
Yolele Foods is championing novel healthy ingredients through the superfood grain Fonio, a climate-resistant traditional African ingredient. Tia Lupita, a better-for-you, Mexican inspired food company, offers novel and sustainable ingredients like cactus tortillas and cactus & cassava root totopos. On the food waste side, pitch company Shameless Pets is producing nutritional, up-cycled treats to reduce the environmental impact of pet food production.
On the Food Tech side, we’re seeing innovation in animal protein through the likes of The Better Meat Co. which produces plant-based ingredients to supplement traditional processed meats, designed for nutrition, taste and sustainability. We’re also seeing exciting innovation in Spira, a startup creating functional ingredients from spirulina microalgae as a replacement for petroleum and animal compounds.
Discover the future of food & agriculture at FoodBytes! Chicago
Join us on September 19 to see these rising startups pitch onstage and network with the corporates and investors (shout out to our major sponsors ADM, Polsinelli, Printpack, JBS, Foodspace and Land O’ Lakes SUSTAIN) transforming the value chain alongside us.
Can’t make it in person? Follow us on our social channels for the live play by play.