By James Williamson – Analyst, RaboResearch Food & Ag – Rabobank
Rabobank’s continued search for the sustainable and scalable solutions and technologies that are disrupting our food system flourished at FoodBytes! San Francisco in March. Food tech companies pitched, including SNPitty, Nutrigene, FUEL and ATE, which help combat rising global obesity and help personalize and improve dieting. Innovative food startups also pitched, including Siren Snacks, Creation Nation (the Betty Crocker of protein bars) and Good Seed, each trying to find their niche in the plant-based protein scene. Food-Chain disrupters Pure Cultures, Evaptainers and Vega Coffee took home the top prizes, winning the Highly Commended Award, People’s Choice Award, and the Judge’s Choice Award respectively.
Each of the winning companies is looking to disrupt its respective supply chain, whether by reducing the use of antibiotics in livestock, decreasing food waste in developing countries or selling direct from farm to consumer.
Pure Cultures took home the Highly Commended award after Co-Founder Colleen Kazemi demonstrated—in a short 60-second pitch to the over 350 attendees—that its product could have huge implications for the poultry supply chain. Kazemi highlighted the growing weariness around the idea of using antibiotics on the livestock which we ultimately consume. Pure Cultures is tackling this challenge with its probiotics that naturally boost an animal’s immune system and significantly reduced or eliminate the amount of antibiotics it needs to stay healthy.
Evaptainers earned the People’s Choice Award for redesigning evaporative cooling and developing an innovative electricity-free refrigerator that provides a sustainable, scalable solution to reduce food spoilage in developing countries. Evaptainers started at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is entering a trial phase in Morocco this spring. In Africa, over 40% of the perishable food produced spoils before it reaches the end consumer. Evaptainers could reduce food waste in developing countries and increase total expendable income, as it helps food stay fresh longer.
Vega Coffee is reinventing the coffee supply chain by selling from rural coffee farms in developing nations direct to consumers in the U.S. Co-Founder Noushin Ketabi walked away with the Judges’ Choice Award. The startup’s business model focuses on building roasters where coffee is grow, cutting out the nearly 20 middle-men and providing a four-fold increase in income to its coffee farmers, which can lift them out of poverty. Vega’s model capitalizes on the growing trend of premium coffee, while reducing the cost to the consumer and increasing grower revenue.
At FoodBytes! San Francisco, the trends were clear: healthy, sustainable, gluten free and flavorful food continue to dominate. However, the chosen winners were companies with sustainable and scalable solutions that aim to facilitate change not only in the U.S, but in the developing world.